Gozo

With the Malta Challenge Marathon being off my agenda due to my injury, I had more time to explore than I expected.  So I took the ferry over to Gozo to check out some of the places that Jude and I had visited 3 years ago.  I knew that the Azure Window had collapsed, but I wasn’t expecting to see the San Blas beach completely covered in seaweed.  To show you the contrast I’ve included images from 2016.

As I drove along I was also lucky enough to spot the Ta Pinu National Shrine.  The interior and mosaics outside, which appeared to have been done by people from all around the world, were very impressive.

Mdina, Malta

My apologies for not publishing a ‘real’ post for a while but, like many bloggers it seems, I’ve been busy doing nothing in particular.

Anyway a few months ago now, my wife organised a trip to Iceland with her friend Kate, so I had a look for something to do while she was away.  Naturally I wanted to find some warmer weather and I looked at the AIMS marathon calendar for some inspiration.  To my delight I discovered that the Malta Challenge Marathon was on at the same time.  It consists of 3 races over 3 days, covering a 10 miler, a 5k then a Half marathon.   So I entered, arranged all my travel and set about getting fit.  My training was going really well (even running while I was away in Finland and Mykonos) and I’d managed to get up to 20k in a respectable 1h 50 mins, so I figured I was ready…  That is until my final training run, the Saturday before I left, and my left calf seized up yet again!  (Insert a suitable curse or emoji here).

Thankfully I had another reason to go… My father spent some time in Malta after the War, as a Signalman on a minesweeper and he had mentioned enjoying some time ashore down a street which he called “The Gut”, but is actually called Strait Street in English.   So when my wife and I went to Malta / Gozo a few years ago, we searched for a copy of a book by George Cini, called Strait Street.  We couldn’t find an English copy anywhere, so I got in touch with George and managed to get hold of a copy to give to my dad.   During my email exchanges with George, I mentioned my dad’s book and he suggested I present a copy of it, personally, to the Fondazzioni Wirt Artna (FWA), which is an organisation dedicated to preserving the history of the island.  And so that was also arranged…

So, like London buses, you don’t hear anything from me for a while and now a few posts of my, sometimes very wet, time in Malta & Gozo, beginning with the Mdina…

 

Tour du Wildhorn, Switzerland (Day 3 of 4)

I should mention at this point that my mate Pete suffers from vertigo.  He also currently has 2 bad knees (as you can possibly tell from his knee supports in the photos) and, as Monsieur Alfonse used to say on ‘Allo ‘Allo, a dicky ticker.  Plus, he will tell you that he only has one lung.  (Of course, if this were true, he would never have been able to run a half marathon in around 76 minutes, but we have to humour him…)

That said, our route for Day 2 looked simple enough on paper – a descent back down the path we had climbed the day before, a casual stroll along the valley floor, over the Col du Rawil and then up to the wonderfully (and as it turned out appropriately named) Col des Eaux Froides (Cold Waters), before dropping down again to the Cabane des Audannes.  It’s a distance of no more than 7 miles and around 750m (or 2,500ft) of ascent.  Simple.

However, the forecast was for rain by mid afternoon and what we didn’t know, was that there was a huge area of limestone to cross, which involved scrambling up and down over the sharp rocks.  Apart from the danger of falling down one of the many gullies, one slip and you could have been cut to ribbons.  This was not ideal with rain imminent.  So we pushed on, very carefully of course, foregoing our lunchtime picnic and we managed to reach the Col des Eaux Froides just as the clouds were gathering.  A flurry of white stuff started to descend, the wind got up and the air was increasingly cold.   Somewhat different to our previous 2 days.  (New readers to this series, please see the images from Day 1 and Day 2).

Even once inside the mountain hut, all was not as cozy as it might seem, as the toilets were in a small building outside.  This is just about visible to the right of the main building in some of the last photos.

As before, Pete’s photos are suitably watermarked.

 

Mike’s Music Monday #19

It’s quite timely that I should have posted this picture of my two good friends Ian and Martin, as Joe Jackson was a particular favourite of Ian’s and the song always reminds me of a camping holiday that the three of us had in Guernsey in the summer of 1979.  We travelled over on the ferry when the infamous Fastnet storms were beginning.  The boat was pitching and rolling all the way.  Almost everyone on the ship was ill except the 3 of us, who could be found propping up the bar.

Martin played on the wing for York Rugby Union Football Club and was quick as well as strong and he decided to enter the Guernsey Open Athletics Championship.  He chose to compete in  the 100 metres and the Shot Putt event.  (Not many people attempt that ‘double’!)  Ian and I didn’t want to be left out so we recruited another 100m sprinter to form a 4x100m relay team.  We finished 4th out of 5, beating the team put together by the 1500m runners, who had finished their own race only about 20 minutes before!

It’s those sort of holidays that bond friendships for the rest of your life.  Even today, 40 years on, you may hear one of us say “Is she really going out with him?” 🤣

 

 

(Long Distance) Running update (Part 4)

I’m impressed by all runners, but especially by those who can motivate others to go out running.  This was the case yesterday when I read RunColbyRun’s post about simply getting out there, whatever the weather, humidity or however you feel – we all make excuses don’t we?  So it was with that in mind that I got of my butt (as she would say) and ran 6k (3.7 miles) today.  Thanks Colby, I just have to keep it going now!

Since I have no pictures of me running today, this also gives me an opportunity to catch up on part 4 of my Long Distance running series…  (I also thought you might be amused by the pics below from 1999 and 2000).

After reaching my goal of a sub-3 in 1994, I didn’t run another marathon until 1999, (then aged 45), when I ran what was being termed the ‘inaugural’ Edinburgh Marathon, which went from the old Scottish capital of Dunfermline to the current, Edinburgh.  It was a linear route, so runners had to catch a bus, at some ungodly hour, like 6am, to get to the start.  I recall sitting next to a chap (aged over 60, which seemed old to me at the time) who was about to run his 200th marathon or something. (He’d only started running 10 or 12 years earlier so I’ve no idea where he must have found them all to run).   Anyway I told him I was aiming for a sub-3 and I could see he didn’t rate my chances.  He planned an ‘easy’ 3h 40m…

The race itself was memorable for starting next to and then running nearby 2 ladies who were chatting non-stop within ear-shot for at least 10 or 12 miles.  It was then I realised that they were running well within themselves and setting a good pace, so I tagged along… At about the 18 mile mark I struck up a conversation and both were aiming for sub-3.   We ran along together until about the 22 mile mark, when we reached a drinks station and one headed off in front and the other lagged behind.  So I was torn between chasing the one in front or waiting for the one behind.  In the event, I did neither and did my own thing, expecting the 2nd to catch up.   I finished in 2h 58m 40s, about 3 minutes behind the first of my companions and the 2nd came in just after me, also under 3 hours.  So the moral of this tale is, run well within yourself (you should be able to talk) for at least the first half of a marathon and possibly even up to 18 or 19 miles, as that’s when the race really starts.

A year later, I set off with my good mate, Pete, to run the Prague marathon.  Before the race, we did the usual tourist thing and, I have to say that Prague is one of the most beautiful cities that I’ve ever visited, even if the marathon (in 2000 at least) was an out and back course along a dual carriageway!   The weekend was also memorable for a visit to a Hall of Mirrors (you have to see it to understand), where Pete and I were in stitches, with tears in our eyes, just looking at our reflections.  🤣🤣  Little things…

As for the race, at the turnaround point I saw Pete on his way back, not that far ahead but, as he’s a better runner than me, I didn’t really expect to catch him.  Towards the finish, I knew I had another sub-3 in the bag, despite a guy ushering us along to run faster to get to the finish line.  And sure enough, Pete was there waiting to greet me as I finished in exactly the same time as Edinburgh, 2h 58m 40s.  Consistent or what?  (This remains my best ever age-related time performance).  Pete tells me that he came 151st in 2h 55m 12s and I was 206th.  We were fit in those days!  (Though Pete is still running around 21 minutes for a 5k Park Run!)

Pete and me, Prague Marathon May 2000

 

Mike’s Music Monday #6

This week we have the first of two songs in my list by Billy Ocean – When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough Get Going, which is always a good line for any runner or indeed, any difficult situation in life.  This video is made even more entertaining by the inclusion of Kathleen Turner, Danny de Vito and Michael Douglas.  Hopefully it gets you off to a good start this week.  Enjoy!

Around Lochcarron, NW Scotland

While Jude caught up with old friends at Kate and Geoff’s Waterside Café, Jo, Aaron and I drove just a few miles up the road to the Lochcarron Weavers to find some MaCrae memorabilia.  We’d also been tipped off that just across the way there was a very interesting 10 minute walk up to the abandoned village of Stromemeanach, which was left to fall into ruin in the 19th century in favour of Lochcarron itself.

On the way back, we stopped off to view the ruined Strome Castle, where Jo actually broke into a run (possibly for the first time in 10 to 15 years) after taking some photos of the Highland cow and calf (in pic 11).  I only took one picture of her running, but it turned out pretty well, so I had to post it.

Later that day I strolled down to Slumbay Island (though it’s inappropriately named as it’s still connected to the mainland even at high tide), where I captured a couple of shore birds and, as usual when I find myself on a beach, I found a few stones to stack. 😊

 

65 today!

I’m not usually prone to make a big fuss about ‘key’ birthdays.  Like when I turned 50, I was on holiday in Majorca with my two daughters, Joanne and Sarah, and only they knew it was my birthday (otherwise the compere in the hotel might have had me up on stage doing something silly, which was the last thing I wanted!)  On my 60th birthday, I ran the Vienna marathon.  The idea of running a marathon when I was ‘old’ always appealed to me as a challenge, especially when I knew I would be 60 on a Sunday, so it had to be done. Again Sarah was there, but this time with my wife, Jude.

Today, I’m 65 years old and I thought it worth a mention, purely because you readers are all my friends and I think you should know.  I am writing this in advance, as I’ll be in the UK for Sarah’s wedding next week, so I’ll have no time to be blogging!  All things being equal, I will have been out for a meal last night with my brother, Steve, and his wife, Beverley, and my sister, Karen, and her partner, Paul.  Tonight I will be having a quiet meal at a local hostelry in Hathersage, near Sheffield (and a few beers no doubt) with my lovely wife, Jude. 😍

As is customary, it seems, on these occasions, I’ve dug out some old, and I mean old, photos of me as a child, plus two more ‘grown up’ pictures that I came across recently.

See if you can spot me in the group photos… (Answers at the foot of the page).

Football photo: Back row, second from right.  Rugby photo: Front right.

Krakow – Stag weekend

I’ve just returned from a fabulous extended weekend in Krakow, Poland.  I was invited by my future son-in-law, Karl, to participate in his Stag weekend together with his dad, his 3 younger brothers and 3 of his best friends.  We arrived on Friday night and after a few beers, (of course), found a nice restaurant and a few more beers in a local bar.

The following morning, it was down to a nearby Park for the 5k (3 mile) Parkrun which started at 9am. I wasn’t going to run (due to my dodgy calf), but decided to give it a go.  It lasted about 4.5k before I had to nurse it along to the finish to be 125th out of the 201 runners and 3rd of the 6 of our group who ran.  🙂  I mention this ‘result’ because the next event was Go-Karting, where I was soundly beaten into last place!  It seems Karl and his brothers played the Super-Mario Karting game a lot when they were younger and Karl always chose to be Yoshi.  So Karl was suitably dressed up for the occasion – as he was for the trip to the Games pub in the Old Town for the après-Kart celebrations.

After a nice breakfast and a quiet walk around the Old Town on the Sunday morning, it was down to the Bull Pub to watch the Liverpool v Burnley Premier League match.  The guys had to leave by 6pm to catch their flight back to the UK, but I stayed on for two more days and I’ll post some more pics of that tomorrow…

 

Running update – week 8

I was rather hoping to bring you some good news this week about my return to marathon training.  You may recall I’ve had an enforced rest due to a slight pull or strain in my right calf.  Well, I have rested it and had 3 good massages on my legs and back in the hope of curing the problem.  Things were looking good on Monday when, after a long walk, I managed a 1k jog around a field.  Things looked even better on Wednesday when I did a good 4k (2.5 miles) with a 3k (nearly 2 mile) warm down.  However, my ‘attempt’ at a 10k (6 miles) this lunchtime failed miserably, with the same problem coming back after only 2.5k (1.5 miles).  So I sit here dejected. ☹

The revised plan, below, was a little ambitious, given the events I have on the horizon, so I’ll just have to grin and bear it and make yet another comeback in the summer.  In the meantime, I may well have to get out my road bike and take it for a spin.  Every cloud and all that… 😊

Running Log Week 8