I have another thumping migraine, the steel band of pain is encircling my head, but today I am going for a run. No excuses – so no pesky migraine is going to get in the way of it today. So what to do? Well clearly running and pounding the streets with a pounding head is not an option. Cue a mug of tea, 2 horse strength Ibuprofen and a snooze.
2 hours later, the band of pain has subsided and is a manageable pulsing, so up I get and assemble the kit. It is brass monkey weather but bright and sunny. Base layer, running top, jacket, gloves, fleece lined running tights, padded socks and head/earband. Oh and trainers too.
Then the usual Faffolino visit – let’s get the washing organised. Have a cup of coffee – yup. Tidy up kitchen, take rubbish out. Faff with Map My Run etc, etc, etc. This useful enterprise ate up about 40 minutes, until a strong scolding from me to me, made me go outside. Surprise the sun is shining and it’s warm – well it is 7 degrees and that feels warm now.
Walk down the Slope of Hope, past the barking balcony house (quiet today) and I see a bright yellow Vespa coming towards me, the rider slows down and when she passes says Buon Anno Signora – absolutely no idea who she was, but she was laughing rather manically as well. At this stage she couldn’t have been laughing at my face as I was only on my warm up walk! I continue down the Slope of Hope and realise mechanical Voice Lady from Map My Run is suspiciously quiet – I haven’t changed any settings, but all she is monitoring is calories – no distance, time or anything else. I stop to restart her and continue with a run, down through the village, onto Laundry Lane past Rita’s house, past Mario Di Porchetta’s van, past Adriana’s house (the indefatigable Pro Loco rep and local cook for all festas) and towards the local vinery, which still proudly proclaims winning a bronze medal for one of its wines over a decade ago!
I realise (despite the restart) that Mechanical Voice Lady still hasn’t been monitoring me and I mess about with the settings again – but on this new pesky iPhone everything appears to be ‘greyed out’. Curses – but I continue past our friends’ house, looking beautiful and immaculate in the winter sun, just as Lou Reed starts singing ‘Perfect Day’. Mechanical Voice Lady has decided she is monitoring me, but is still not quite right she thinks I did 1km in 15 minutes and the next in 5. Those timings would really make me a weird runner – 15 minutes for a km is slower than my walking pace and 5 minutes a km is just wishful thinking. On I plod, through long curving S bends, towards the final push which I guess is about another 2km. Whilst I haven’t run for a few days, I notice that I am not out of breath and that my running pace is fairly steady.
Ouch, pride goes before a fall, I stumble on a bit of cracked tarmac – yikes a twinge in my left ankle, okay I need to slow it down a bit, just in case. A few more paces and I manage to repeat stumbling on another bit of cracked tarmac – okay JCR start watching where you’re going… This in fact is really bad advice; all the running guidance tells you to lift your head and look to the distance not at the floor ahead of you. But the roads are in a state of disrepair here, and with no pavements to run on, looking at the ground is often a measure of self preservation.
My ankle is okay and Green Day’s ‘Wake Me Up When September Ends’ comes on, and I don’t know why but I always thought it was when ‘November Ends’. But today, I sing the alternative JCR version of ‘Wake Me Up When December Ends’, it’s followed by Dancing In the Dark by The Boss and I notice that I have reached my destination – the full distance of Laundry Lane. It’s time to wind it down as I have a large hill to climb to get back home. Luckily for me, Mr JCR happens to be coming home from the bar (that sounds bad – he had been out for a 70km ride prior) and a familiar sounding car passes me and I am offered a lift – which I gratefully accept.
Job Done – I hauled my sorry arse out. New Year, I’m out to get you.
– well these are rubbish Map My Run Ones – so I am starting the New Year with a New App…
The problem with closing up a house is that you never quite know what you will find when you open it back up again. We are in rural terrain and have come home to many ‘visitors’ – last March – burglars, previous years have included dead lizards, moths and the smelly bugs which emit a foul smell when you touch them.
This year, bluebottles had taken nest in our front bedroom windows, we had wondered why our bedroom was littered with dead bodies, and wow we found out when opening the windows and shutters. Cue emergency vacuuming and generous use of the flykiller. All of which would be fine, but we are in an organic farming area and I’m not entirely sure how much damage a flykiller spray does to our ‘organic’ credentials.
Further time spent with Dr Google looking up ‘real runs’ rather than virtual runs for Alzheimers – this is a tad more difficult than I imagined, as I have to allow for the fact that I am in Italy for most of the year and so these runs aren’t quite so numerous here in my Region. Possibly it is time for a re-think on my plan and activity. One helpful person has suggested Running Down Dementia via the Park Run efforts – so that is worth me checking out.
So far I’ve done lots of research, but no actual running or signing up. Mmm JCR – you could do better.
The song starts on the 20th of December, our first full day back in Le Marche.
On the First Day of Christmas
We are here in Italy
And the house was only one degree
A bit of artistic licence here – it was about 8 degrees inside.
Bitterly cold and with loads of preparation to do for Christmas, running is taking a back seat at present. We have friends arriving on the 23rd, and so a clean, warm, food and drink-filled house is a must.
The latter not a problem after a judicious stop at Calais Vins on the way down – the former needs be organised. But who wants to go shopping near Christmas time?, not me. So we settle for a quick trolley dash locally, and promise to go out properly on Friday 22nd.
I start looking up potential runs for Alzheimers as part of my prep for 2018’s challenge – this doesn’t look quite as easy as I thought it would. Most ‘virtual’ runs are for a variety of causes and so far I haven’t found one for Alzheimers…
by the Hill That Kills. this was the running reality, on my first run back in Italy.
It has been a hectic week – last Sunday was the London apartment close down and the unwelcome news that our water heater element had gone. Cue short sharp showers using the emergency top up facility – it was a game of chicken between you and the shower as to how long you could actually wash with hot water. Not great when you’ve been running and desperately need a shower!
Whilst I was enjoying myself running Mr JCR was packing the car with the essentials for our Christmas and New Year. Christmas Presents – check. Wine – check. Waitrose trolley dash – check. Bike – check. Solar Lights – check. More Wine – check. Whisky, Port, Sherry – Check. Holland & Barrett trolley dash – check. Clothing – check. Room in boot for the necessary cases of champagne – check. Room in boot for stop at Calais Vin to buy more wine – check. Room in boot for the cool bag of essential dairy stuff that can’t be bought in Italy – check.
Sunday night can’t sleep. Monday wake up early, everything goes to plan, except for one tiny detail – leaving space in the car for the fridge essentials is fine, one small detail JCR, you needed to have actually taken the essentials out of the fridge! This minor detail was discovered on the way to Kent – too far out of London to turn back, this meant a series of frantic WhatsApp messages to friends Maan and Dragan to go into the fridge take what they wanted and freeze the rest.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t have been that bothered by missing the groceries but we have our dear friends G & J staying with us over Christmas, G is particularly partial to all things Cornish, as a child he used to holiday in Cornwall a lot. There pretty much isn’t anything Cornish that he doesn’t like. As he and J live in The Netherlands, it’s quite hard to get Rodda’s Cornish Clotted Cream out there; my dairy surprise included this precious jewel so we could all enjoy Cornish Clotted Cream Teas over the holiday. Luckily a stop for petrol outside of Folkestone took us to a Tesco, where a last minute clotted cream dash meant we could continue with the precious cargo on board. No cool bag to put it in, but with temperatures of two and three degrees, that didn’t seem to be a big problem.
Next stop Calais, aha an hour delay on the tunnel crossing, ho hum. Next stop Calais Vins – a trolley dash, breakfast and then en route to Champagne. Next stop the champagne supplier, eight cases bought and stowed. Next stop Beaune. Overnight stay, get up, breakfast, trolley dash around the supermarket to replace the ‘lost’ Comte, Stichelton and Vacherin cheeses. To the Mont Blanc tunnel refuel, change drivers and next stop Italy, to a shopping outlet near Milan. We thought this was a good idea, because from a distance it looked like Bicester Village and we thought the food there would be better than eating in a Motorway Service Station. Hmm, we won’t ever return there. Next stop – home. Blimey, it’s brass monkey weather here, the house is literally stone cold. We unpack, shake and shiver and put the heating on, which is not really up to the job.
Wednesday morning, – more blinking shopping to do – this time it’s fresh stuff. Get home start organising the house for our friends’ arrival. Mr JCR has a committee meeting, so I set up the Christmas tree (well it is an olive tree actually, which gets decorated and then put in the garden).
As I am doing this pleasant task, I start looking for the window lights and my Santa candle (sad I know!) – it seems that when we were burgled in March, the burglars liked my taste so much that they stole my Scandi window lights and Santa candle, along with the other weird stuff. Curses. Trying to channel my inner Christmas karma, I hope they enjoy them – as my inner Christmas karma doesn’t actually extend to thieves, I hope that my Santa candle is stuffed to the gunwales with hitherto undiscovered gelignite and blows them to Kingdom come.
Thursday – my usual running day, we have chores to do in the morning and a delivery arriving in the afternoon, the delivery doesn’t actually materialise, so my run is deferred and deferred until it is dark and I don’t have torches/lights here for running, so that blows that idea out of the water.
At last, Friday arrives – now we are doing the ‘big shop’ for all the goodies for Christmas – that means my run waits a little longer. Then the Thursday delivery arrives on Friday, just as I am about to go out – so delayed just a bit longer – Faffolino has done a great job this week. I finally get out – dressed in my finest black fleece lined leggings, with fluoro orange on top, and a natty bright orange hat – I looked like a bizarre liquorice stick, with a satsuma topping.
I start my warm up walk down the Slope of Hope, the walnut trees are bare, and the wind whistles in places you wished it didn’t. Turn the blind bend and yes naturally I have to dodge a car – welcome home JCR. Past the barking balcony house – no dogs today and start my run into the Hill That Kills.
I have been running in London, I have done some park runs, some interval training and some longer runs. Quite evidently what has been missing is regular hill training. I have become a soft southern namby pamby, actually as London is north of here, I have become a soft northern namely pamby. Either way, I now can’t run all the way up the Hill That Kills, I manage to run just past Pigiama Mamma’s house and then my puffing and tired legs tell me to stop. It’s only been eight weeks since I was running hills regularly and I’ve lost my hill legs.
I start to walk and then at the hill peak commence running again, down Lovers’ Lane, now totally empty, the piadineria is shut down and it looks like Villa Bali is closed for Winter. I circuit the gardens and turn back down Lovers’ Lane – a car approaches, passes and then turns round and follows me slowly. I now have paranoid thoughts about a weirdo kidnapping me and worse. Then he pulls over and stops to take his dog out for a walk. Not a weirdo then, just a dog walker…
I run up to the mini peak on Lovers’ Lane and give myself another walking break – back to the Hill That Kills and now she is laughing at me. ‘JCR, you tested yourself and on your first visit back to me, I have taken a great big chunk out of your bum, – but there’s plenty more bum to chew, so you better get training girlie’. I decide then that I will do a mini sprint part way up The Slope of No Hope – which 8 weeks ago, I could run from top to bottom, without stopping. Well that idea was clearly misguided – I manage to wheeze my way past the barking balcony house and I have to walk again, up into Mill Lane I do one further loop and try The Slope Of No Hope, once more. I did a little better this time, past the barking balcony house to the boundary of the walnut grove.
So my summary is that just like Christmas, my running needs to be planned a little more militarily.
When packing the car and leaving room for one more thing, write a post-it note somewhere visible to tell you to take that thing with you. When running up hills, it’s not a bad idea to actually have run up some hills beforehand! I think that means when I return to London the Hampstead Heath running may be necessary to keep my running legs going.
Yellow Submarine – The Beatles
Green Eyes – Coldplay
Green Garden- Laura Mvula
Yellow River – Christie
White Riot – The Clash
Little Red Corvette – His Purple Highness
Blue Suede Shoes – Elvis
Lavender – Marillion
Pretty Fly For A White Guy – The Offspring
Fade to Grey – Visage
Purple Rain – His Purple Highness
Distance 6.03km ( I think it was about 5km really)
Sunday morning, alarm goes off – I groan and am made a welcome cup of tea. Faffolino decides to visit and in her usual fashion, manages to persuade me to faff. We are travelling to Italy tomorrow, so this gives Faffolino many prevarication excuses for me. Pack the overnight bag, unpack the overnight bag, re-pack the overnight bag. Sort out the laundry, get dressed, think about sorting the car…
Yes, yes, yes, I faffed a lot. But then I did go out and welcomed Mr Smooth back into my life. Because of a short break, followed by some interval training, I hadn’t done a longer run for a while. So, charge up the C25K App, go direct to Week 9, where Mr Smooth is waiting for me patiently.
Now I had remember how to synch everything again:-
Music – check
Map My Run – check
Mr Smooth – check
It is blinking cold and I am wearing double layers, runner’s buff, gloves and hat. I decide to avoid the Top Gear tunnel under the Barbican, as it is full of nasty chemicals and so I go ‘over the top’ to avoid the fumes. Mr Smooth tells me I can do the thirty minutes run and not to fear it. I am feeling rather perky and so I actually start my run ahead of Mr Smooth’s instructions (only by a minute), I am skipping merrily to the sound of It’s Raining Men and decide I will just run as far as I feel.
Leaving the concrete beauty behind me, I continue towards Clerkenwell Road and hallelujah the traffic lights are green and I bound across St John’s Street, past the Zetter Hotel (I really should get paid for mentioning them!) and towards the Farringdon Road junction, double hallelujah the lights are on green and I bound merrily across there. towards the Italian church, where I see all the Clerkenwell Italians getting ready to enter church. As ever, they are dressed in their Sunday best, some little old nonnas wearing rather over-sized fur coats, that are the size of small houses. Reading the London Italian newspapers and sipping espresso coffee, the sight of mini Italy on a Sunday makes me smile, because that is where I will be in two days’ time.
At this point, the fur coats had obviously transmitted telepathic heat rays to my clothing, so a quick press of pause to give me time to get my hat, gloves and running buff off, as I was overheating. Needless to say, I forgot to ‘de-pause’ Mr Smooth, I did wonder why he wasn’t his usual encouraging self. Up towards Bloomsbury and the fairly hip Lamb’s Conduit Street, a quick skip towards Coram Park and looping back to Lamb’s Conduit Street again – it was at this point I realised Mr Smooth had gone AWOL, another pause and re-start. By now I was slowing down and decided if I could do six or seven kms, then that would be good enough. I headed back towards home, passing The Bowler pub (another advert!) and the Hidden House recently featured on Grand Designs. On Lever Street I saw a lady wearing the most flashy cobalt blue and net leggings, so needless to say I had to loop back and tell her they were amazing. She did look surprised – I am putting it down to middle aged eccentricity…
Finally, Mr Smooth caught up and told me I’d been running for thirty minutes – he was wrong of course, but it was me who paused him. And tonight, I saw him on SPOTY on the Beeb. Truthfully Mr Smooth is a master of words and running and he helped me today.
All Stood Still – Ultravox
It’s Raining Men – The Weather Girls
Love’s Unkind – Donna Summer
Dreaming Of Me – Depeche Mode
Personal Jesus – Depeche Mode
Temptation – Heaven 17
I Won’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me – Nik Kershaw
Electric Barbarella – Duran Duran
Night Fever – Bee Gees
Somewhere In My Heart – Aztec Camera
Distance 7.62km (but includes warm up so probably about 6km)
Time 43.56 mins
Average Pace 5.46 mins/km (not true Map My Run was weird!)
In my mind’s eye, I am about three or four years old, on a fairground carousel, I think it was in New Brighton – that famed St Tropez of the North West. I am wearing a dress, with pictures of yachts, flags in suitably nautical colour scheme, watched by my pops. I am squealing and chirping with delight.
It is now a few years later, I don’t remember which birthday, but I do remember my grandmother, Iye Iye telling me that she received a telephone call from my pops asking to be rescued from my friends! They had all refused to go home, unless my pops gave each one a kiss. He didn’t and they all did go home. That as I recall was probably the last birthday party of mine he ever attended.
Another summer holiday in Brittany, a small place called Nevez, a campsite run by Mme Guefarda. She drove a tractor, served a mean cider, and ran the campsite where I managed to bite my knee – and I am still bearing the scars today. Year after year, we holidayed there, introducing the French holidaymakers to tomato ketchup, and the curiously named ‘tap job’ which was my pops’s favourite ‘torture’ for us kids. Each year without fail, a stream of children would arrive at the tent asking if my pops could go out to play.
A weekend away in Kent, involving us travelling from Liverpool by train, and I was treated by pops to afternoon tea in the dining carriage, en route. I can remember feeling so grown up, being allowed to dine on my own.
Teenage years in Liverpool and the O Level years, when I was by far the most envied girl for one thing alone and that was my pops coming to school and whisking me away for sneaky Chinese lunches.
The other memories are too numerous to mention, and why am I writing this now? Thursday is my running day, but not today, I am visiting my pops in his new home. My pops has Alzheimer’s, a disease that has torn his memories from him, and now has torn him away from his home and family.
His sense of humour is still intact, he still gestures to imaginary objects in the window, to make me look and be fooled. He remembers the famous family ritual of the budgie bounce and practices that on me, with a big grin. His physiotherapist is playing with a soft ball and whilst all the other patients gently return the ball, he rather craftily serves up dummy throws to make the physiotherapist move to catch the ball, wide, high and low. Never throwing the same each time, he takes a wicked delight in his actions, no matter how much I try to change his delivery, he continues to be mischievous.
I miss my run, but I miss my pops more. He can’t really talk to you, conversations are a curious affair of you trying to work out what he means, and answering accordingly, hoping that it makes sense to him. He has his lunch and I note that he still eats very properly, using his napkin on his lap.
I spend about an hour and a half with him, about the same time it takes me to run 11-12km. Normally in that time, when I am running I feel a sense of achievement, of me doing something that makes sense and makes me happy. Today that time is spent with someone who now no longer knows who he is, who I am and what he is doing there.
My running time is occasionally a happy time or an angry time or even a ‘meh’ time, but this time I am not running and it is a sad time. Pops has a tear running down his face, slowly trickling and he wipes it away, I cannot stop the same thing happening to me.
Why write this? It’s not my usual running blog type story, it’s not jokey, but when I run, I can make sense of ‘stuff’. It maybe the stupid stuff, such as what am I going to do in the week, or the big things that are bothering me.
Mr JCR’s uncle recently emailed me to say he had read one of my blog articles when I had my potty mouth on. He pondered on how things change over time, and what is now acceptable wasn’t when he was younger. I think about that now, and I realise my potty mouth is still going to work…
I hate Alzheimers, I hate the fact that the only significant medical research went down a rabbit hole, that pretty much led to nowhere. I hate the fact that millions of families have a loved one stolen from them by a disease that seemingly can’t be fixed, despite the fact that it is going to affect more and more of us.
I effing well hate the fact that this stupid disease is something I can’t fix with running. I can’t fix my pops, I can’t bring him back but I’d love to. But there is one thing I can do, and that is to run when I can for Alzheimers. So I am starting my New Year resolutions early, I am going to sign up for virtual runs for Alzheimers, so when I do run, it may not help my pops, but it will help others.
So Alzheimer’s I am telling you, the combination of me and others, mean your time of devastation is going to come to an end. Fuck you Alzheimers (sorry Alan) – You may have stolen my pop’s memories, but you haven’t stolen mine and you won’t steal my determination to make a difference. Today’s reality of Alzheimer’s is one I am happy to start running from.
Watch this space for my Alzheimer’s running reports.