Posts Tagged ‘life’

Today I’m sat at home feeling sorry for myself as I battle a cold and a cat that insists on biting me just when I’m least expecting it.

In addition I can’t remember f you feed a cold and starve the flu or if it’s the other way round. I really need to google it but will this just confuse me even more?

Yesterday I was back in uni and made good progress with my research reading about coding and doing some too.

I like to get in early so around 1am I went for a walk round Bradford city centre, a place I have grown up with and have many fond memories of.
I always remember Bradford as a vibrant, bustling city, full of life and difference reflected in the people, the shops, the conversations, pretty much everything you can think of.

Back when I was a child and a teenager Bradford was somewhere to go where you could lose yourself for a couple of hours in the shops, pubs, cafes and markets and come away wanting to go back.

It had a dip in the 90s as the author Bill Bryson described in his book Notes from a Small Island, a very good book if you get the chance to read it. I remember reading about Bill’s description of Bradford and how distraught I felt at some American coming to my home town and write about it in such a derogatory way.

Now I understand what he meant and why he wrote about Bradford in such a way.

Instead of heading for the Broadway Centre which is still relatively new and as such is modern, clean and busy, I headed for Kirkgate Market a leftover of the brutalist architecture of the 60s and 70s. This building evokes many memories of the wrong kind for people from the older generations because of the way Kirkgate Market came about.

My own personal recollection of events is that the Bradford Council at the time decided to pull down the old Victorian market that had stood on the space for many, many years and replace it with a concrete monolith.

As with many Victorian buildings the old market was full of charm, grandeur, splendour and was a truly great asset to the people of Bradford.

But it was costly to maintain so the decision was made to knock it down and replace it with something more modern and efficient but with no redeeming features.

The people of Bradford were not happy. The council did not care.

And so yesterday I walked in Kirkgate Market again past all the pound shops that now seem to have taken over Bradford and through the other side without feeling any emotional connection to it as I have done with many other buildings. It’s just a relic from the 70s that should never have been built in the first place for me and other towns and cities have kept their Victorian buildings that now serve as a jewel in the crown for their city centres.

And so I left Kirkgate and headed up towards Joh St Market and past endless rows of mobile phone shops, betting shops and pound shops frequented by cheap tracksuits…

And then round and down the other side and more of the same expect that To Let signs appeared far to frequently interrupting the mobile phone shops and pound shops.

One image did stand out in my mind though as I walked down Darley St past the old Marks & Spencer’s premises. Two old down and outs sat on the steps sharing a can of lager but still smiling and happy with their arms round each other despite the cards that life had dealt them they still had each other and could still find happiness amidst desolation and despair. I found it a very heart warming scene and wish I had taken a photo of them…

I went into the Broadway centre for my shopping and things did change, modern buildings, contemporary shops but still no less busy and still tracksuits going around popping in and out of shops, eating chips and doughnuts and making the best of life.

And that seems to sum up Bradford or me. It has never been a city with its own identity but one trying to compete with Leeds or Manchester or any other big city rather than looking to its roots and making the best of what it has to offer and its historically important heritage.

And because of this trying to be something it isn’t mentality Bradford has become something it shouldn’t be, run down and like the ghost town in parts that Bill Bryson went through.

Parts of Bradford are bouncing back and regenerating and showing that there is still some life left in Bradford but I fear it may be some years before I see the Bradford I remember so well from my childhood, bustling with people all enjoying themselves and living life to the full. But I hope I do see it in my lifetime.


After reading my friend Rachel Cullan’s excellent blog about running and injuries I thought I’d share my recent experience.


On the Trigger Race (I’m still finding new people to tell my story to!) I tore my right calf. Now 150ft up the side of a cliff isn’t the best place to do it especially when you’ve another 5 miles to run so you can withdraw alive and with honour intact.


My right calf ached after but nothing I was worried about. It would of course go away and my leg would feel pain free again and I could continue running. Except it didn’t work out like that.


I rested until the Thursday after and I went for a short run. Everything was fine until I got round the corner from my house and my right calf went big time. It not only hurt a lot but nearly caused me to stop and pull up completely.


I managed to get home and to my amazement I had knocked 4 minutes off my time running up Blake Hill / Howes Lane but I was in pain. Was it worth it? Of course it was!


But the next day my calf didn’t feel any better. Or the day after. So now I know it was serious and I would have to go back to my physio to find out what was wrong and how to fix it and get back running.


So off I trotted to Rippendon to see Joe the Physio. The verdict was a Grade 1.5 (quickly upgraded by me to a 2) tear in my right calf and between 4 to 6 weeks with no running.


But I could go to the gym and do stuff that people in a gym do without getting cold and wet and lost and sweaty and confused and wondering who they are miles from civilisation.


So I went on the spin bike. But how to make it interesting? Firstly see if I could last longer than half an hour before I lost all feeling between my legs. I found out I could and that I could go quite fast, 23.5 miles, avg rpm 101 or go for 1 ½ hours before I needed to stop.


Similar on the Cross-Trainer and rope pull thing. Instead of thinking this was something I had to endure I decided to make it a challenge even if some days that challenge was just to go to the gym and do it I did it.


And it worked. I was not only pushing myself harder each time as the copious amounts of sweat falling off me testified, but I kept the boredom at bay and found myself looking forward to going to the gym and seeing how hard I could push myself.


It kept my fitness up, my interest up and most important for me my flexibility. I have never been the most flexible of people but for some reason over the last 6 months I have become more flexible and bendy than I have ever been and I didn’t want to lose this.


But still something was missing and after a couple of weeks it twigged. The gym was keeping me physically at a good level but mentally I was going downhill fast.


Until this point I never realised what running does for me in controlling my anxiety and anger and stopping me slipping into depression and just being a dick to everyone I come into contact with.


Running it appears does a lot more for me mentally and psychologically than I ever realised. Running allowed me to deal with emotions and feelings at a day to day level without letting them simmer away under the surface until they boiled over into a near uncontrollable explosion which resulted in misunderstandings at the best…


Running allows me to gather my thoughts and deal with them in a rational and logical way, letting go of the stupid thoughts and focusing on what really matters.


But with that outlet taken away from me how would I cope? Not very for the first few weeks until I realised what was happening and what I felt I was becoming. Then I could deal with it however much it drained the life out of me I could deal with it.


And then salvation! Joe the Physio told me I could run again! Only for 5 minutes to start with but it was better than nothing.


And so today I drove up to Ogden Water and nervously took my first steps back to full running fitness.


I only went down to the reservoir from the car park and back but it was a start. And it felt good. In fact it felt bloody good! The fear has gone about what happens if I fall over. Tough shit that’s life. You either get up or you don’t.


But the uphill was even better. Only a slight uphill but it might as well not have been there. Power, power and more power resulted in a PR.


All my anxiety, anger and other stuff disappeared in 6 ½ minutes of running. That is what running does to me,


What happened most of all on the Trigger Race was I gained self-belief and confidence in myself and my abilities. I’m sure my friends will stop me from getting too cocky and maybe one day my new-found self-confidence will result in something I don’t come back from…


But in the meantime I’m going to enjoy life and push as much as hard as I can in my running and see where it takes me. Life is for living, live it.


The dreaded anxiety once again came out of the shadows and attacked me again this weekend. I could feel it coming but I chose to ignore it and then fight it believing I was bigger and stronger that it was and I could beat it. But in the end it beat me again and I had to succumb to its relentless onslaught, admit defeat and move on.

But it hurts why it happened and it’s beaten me again and I couldn’t do more to beat it.

On reflection, the signs were all there. Posting endless messages to friends, pushing myself hard at the gym, overthinking everything and a head full of thoughts swimming around going nowhere.

But I did nothing about them until it was too late risking friendships and my health in the process.

Today with the anxiety gone I have had time to think about this particular anxiety attack and why it happened. And instead of asking friends to accept me and understand me I’ve decided to write down my thoughts about it in the hope I can begin the fight back against anxiety and beat it once and for all.

As I have written about elsewhere on my blog I competed in a tough fell race, the Trigger Race on January 15th and despite having to retire after 15 miles I am still very proud of what I accomplished that day.

I had 3 potentially life threatening experiences in 4 ½ hours on the Trigger Race and they were the type of situations which put you off doing something like the Trigger Race ever again or make you want more.

I want more.

And that is part of the problem. How do you recreate situations where you’ve pushed yourself way beyond what you thought you were capable of, cheat death 3 times and learn that you are tougher and stronger, mentally and physically than you ever thought you was?

But it’s the buzz that gets you. The buzz of having been on the biggest adventure of your life and come through a far better person? The answer is you can’t even though you might try. The buzz lasted over a week for me, an amazing feeling I wish I had every day. However hard you try though you can’t recreate that situation with those feelings. They are unique to that day and that situation and will be forever. Time to move on, remember that day but create new situations that give me a different buzz.

On top of everything else I tore my right calf that day which has resulted in around 4 – 6 weeks with no running. It’s not a major injury nor is it a long time off, but when running gives you your buzz, makes you feel good and helps you control your stress and anxiety it’s a lifetime. I can still keep fit but lifting weights or going on the spin bike at the gym just doesn’t seem to give me the same buzz as running over open moorland, powering up hills and flying down the other side.   

So, my only option is to accept my situation and be grateful that it’s not as bad as some of my friends are going through and I can still go down the gym and keep fit.

And there’s the waiting for my masters course to start and other things to happen. All of a sudden I’ve caught up with pretty much everything and there’s only so much reading you can do in a day before your head starts to turn to mush and workouts at the gym become easier because you have more time to recover and time doesn’t matter. Friends have promised to meet up but they have their own busy lives to contend with so you have to wait until they are free. Boredom sets in as you begin to look for things to fill your day with and you try not to become an annoyance to friends and not bombard them with endless messages that they don’t have time to read. And you start thinking about anything and everything which quickly leads to overthinking which is not a good situation.

Try and relax and enjoy the downtime because it won’t last forever and quite soon you’ll be wondering how you can fit everything you want to do into the day, and respect your friends and the lives they lead because they are different to yours.

So all in all a series of events starting with the Trigger Race has snowballed and cumulated into sky high levels of anxiety and stress which have boiled over when they became insurmountable and lead to a mini breakdown.

There are lessons to be learnt in order to minimise the impact anxiety has on me the next time and maximise enjoying life and writing this blog is a big part of it.

Why I run is a question I’m often asked and a question I ask other runners too. I find it fascinating and intriguing to discover the many and sometimes complex reasons why people run. In today’s increasingly time consuming and fast moving society why anyone would want to run with an already crowded social and work calendar when it is easier to get home, switch on the television and watch others running round a track can be hard to comprehend.

I can only speak for myself why I run but like many others my reasons are various, complex and intertwined. What I get from running mentally and emotionally has changed too as my journey has continued and may even change again.

The best place for me to start is with some background information on my life and my running journey. This is my story of why I run.

Growing up I was never sporty. I played football, rugby, cricket and ran round a field at school but I was always the runt of the class, one of the last to be picked and usually the last to finish. My childhood memories of running are of setting off far too fast and fading quickly before being caught and swallowed by the rest of the kids and finishing at the back as usual. It’s a habit I still have today although I have made changes to curb it and ensure I have enough energy to finish the race!

Through my teens, twenties and thirties I would play 5-a-side with work colleagues but that was it as far as sport and running was concerned. Running was not for me. I did try it a few times but found what should be one of the most natural things for a human to do difficult. Having no co-ordination, no stamina and no patience meant I gave up very easily on running back then.

Into my forties and I stopped playing 5-a-side and the weight piled on. I soon went from around 14st when I turned forty to 19st 10lbs aged 45. I didn’t think anything of it. I was getting older and getting fatter was part of the process. Everybody went through the same thing and I was no different. This was life as I knew it.

But before all the weight piled on I had been diagnosed with depression in April 2001. For months before this I hadn’t been feeling well mentally, emotionally and physically. I was tired and disinterested in many things. The only respite I had was drinking with my mates at the weekends. Long term this didn’t solve anything but you don’t think long term when you get that short term fix of drinking yourself into oblivion so you can forget everything that you perceive as bad about your life. Your problems seemed solved because you can’t remember them. Until you come round the next day to realise that they’re still there, they haven’t gone away and all you can think about is the next weekend and going through the same routine.

So off to the doctors I went and with his usual abrupt manner told me I had depression, I had to ‘man up’ and get a grip and put me on anti-depressants to help lift my mood so I could ‘man up’ and carry on with life as if nothing was wrong.

Except it was. The anti-depressants are in my opinion like state sanctioned alcohol tablets in that they mask the problems causing you to be depressed because they make you drowsy, dull your senses and you are not fully aware of what is going on around you. This is my own opinion and others will have a different experience depending on what tablets they were prescribed and the dosage. I ended up on 40mg of Citalopram a day which made life bearable and forgettable. I tried Prozac for a while but not being able to stop inside because all four walls were closing in on you is not a good experience.

So I went through the new millennium living my life like this. Drugged up to the eyeballs on anti-depressants, the new sweets for a new generation and solving none of my underlying problems. Many of my problems back then centred around money of a lack of it. The ironic thing looking back is that I spent too much many at the weekend in order to try and forget that I had a lack of money. It can be difficult and frustrating for people looking in as they can see your problem and how easy it would be to fix it. For that individual though it is like being the eye at the centre of a storm. Everything is going on around you and you are largely oblivious to it and oblivious to how your problem can be resolved. Occasionally something comes and hits you right between the eyes but by and large you just carry on hoping that the storm will pass and everything will be alright. This for me was especially so when I was on anti-depressants.

But the storm doesn’t always pass and things keep hitting you, harder and harder and harder. Life was spiralling out of control even though at the time I couldn’t see it. Money and work problems were causing my stress and anxiety levels to increase and this was having a negative effect on my sleeping which led to increased levels of tiredness and increased depression, stress, and anxiety. Life was in a downward, uncontrollable spiral and there seemed to be no way of stopping it.

The depression, stress and anxiety continued to get worse despite the anti-depressants as my problems mounted up. I was reluctant to ask my doctor for an increase in dosage because I was already on 40mg a day and having problems functioning fully day to day. I was also fearful of becoming addicted to them and then asking for higher and higher dosages to ensure that I got the same hit.

So during the mid 2000’s I found myself dependent on anti-depressants to get through the day, stress and anxiety levels increasing all the time, problems with alcohol, problems with money and in a job I hated. I could see no way out. I didn’t know who to turn to or where to go. This is the loneliest place to be. I decided that the only way to solve everything would be to take my own life. I mean who would miss a loser like me? So I made my first suicide attempt sometime in 2005. I took around 25 Nytol one-a-night sleeping tablets. I remember falling asleep and waking up the next morning drowsy but alive. I phoned in sick to work and was in work the next day as if nothing had happened. I told no-one about this. What could anyone do to help me?

But life carries on regardless. I was alive and I had no choice but to regather my thoughts and get on with life so I did. Things got more and more intense and overwhelming for me though and I was in a desperate cycle of depression, anxiety and stress with no way out. This carried on for years and during the latter part of this period of my life I was somehow surviving on one hours sleep a night and constantly have suicidal thoughts all through the day. This was not good for me or anyone around me and is not the way to live your life. Something needed to change.

And change it did. For many years, I had felt different and slightly out of touch with the rest of society. I didn’t know why, I couldn’t put my finger on anything and no-one around me seemed to know either. And then my best friend Jill suggested I may have Asperger’s Syndrome, a high functioning form of autism. I did some research into Asperger’s and for the first time ever I could identify personality traits in myself with the characteristics of Asperger’s. it was like a light switch coming on in my head. I began to understand myself in a different way and look at society and life in a different way too.

However, this was only the start of a very long and tortuous journey through the minefield of getting a diagnosis which I eventually got in October 2008 after 18 months of battling a system that was seemingly more interested in money than the wellbeing of the patients it was supposed to be serving. I didn’t give in though and I got the diagnosis I felt I needed to move on with my life.

And move on I did. In 2009 I returned to college and got my O and A Levels. This enabled me to study for a degree in sociology at the University of Huddersfield. I began writing and performing poetry which fulfilled a need I had in me to be creative and express myself. But there was still something missing and this is when I discovered running.

I was chronically overweight and unfit due to an unhealthy diet and drinking too much alcohol. I had tried going to the gym but didn’t stick at it. Lifting weights in a room just wasn’t doing it for me and I got bored easily. Then on one of the Queensbury Facebook pages I saw an advertisement for people who wanted to start running to join a new beginners group at Queensbury Running Club. The guy who was running it was someone I had worked with many years before so I decided to give it a go.

That first session was hard but I enjoyed it. It was a nice pace with some walking in-between. I coped with it and didn’t feel it was beyond me. This was around April 2014 and I carried on going all through the summer. And then autumn came, it got colder, wet and windy and I didn’t want to go out running anymore. Without realising it I had become a fair weather runner.

Over the autumn and winter of 2014 I stayed in and didn’t do any running. The weight stayed on and I was still searching for that missing something that would give my life more meaning and plug a hole in it.

March 2015 and I went to London for a professional voice acting recording. I was told I have a very good voice for recording but found it difficult to breath correctly due to weighing so much. I knew I needed to change if I was to make anything of my voice and so I went back to the running club at the first opportunity.

I soon got back into running, even more so than before. The club had expanded since my last visit and a lot more people had joined but after a couple of weeks it was as if I’d never been away. I was struggling especially with getting my breathing right but I was enjoying it and looked forward to running every Thursday night with the Queensbury Running Club gang.

I started slowly, from memory my first parkrun at Lister Park, Bradford was around 45 minutes and most of that was walking. I went to Shroggs Park, Halifax and I ran 40 minutes. I had knocked 5 minutes off my time but I was still walking part of the course. This was my next aim, to be able to run a full 5k with no stopping for hills or was I felt tired. I was determined that nothing would stop me achieving this target.

This was a major breakthrough for me. Rather than giving in and telling myself I couldn’t do it I told myself I could do it. And I did it. One summers day I laced up my running shoes and ran down one of the local roads. This was a good tactic as it allowed me to warm up without the added pressure of running uphill and get my legs ready for the long journey ahead of them.

I went down the hill and felt good. This is a nice road and at about a mile long is perfect for a warm up. Right and up a small hill before down again. Before I knew it I had run 2 miles non-stop for the first time and I was running into uncharted territory. Would I manage 3 miles or would I collapse in a heap waiting for some dog walker to come by and rescue me?

I needn’t have worried. I carried on and on and on. All of a sudden I was running very slowly uphill but I was still moving and I passed the magical 3 mile mark according to my watch. I was so happy. I had achieved my running dream and run 3 miles without stopping. I felt like a Olympic superstar.

And from that point on running became fun as well as a way of losing weight and getting fit. I started running 3 miles and more on a regular basis and hills that had previously defeated me I conquered. It wasn’t easy and I would never pretend it was but the sense of achievement I felt was like nothing I had experienced before. I proved to myself I could do something, that it was not beyond me and most of all I enjoyed the experience.

And this continued. I entered races which whilst I knew I had no chance of winning I derived pleasure from by pushing myself to my limits and beyond. I found that was capable of far more than I thought I was, I could do things I never believed I could and I discovered a new me, a better me that had more self-belief, more ability and more confidence.

This has gone over into other areas of my life. I now have more confidence in everyday life and I have learnt to be more patient. Running is a good analogy of life. It’s hard work, the results don’t come quickly but if you stick with it and persevere you do see an improvement in your physical, emotional and mental wellbeing.

And now over two years since I started running I’ve been to places I would never have been otherwise, I’ve met people I would never have met and had some of the most amazing experiences all through running. My mental, emotional, and physical health has improved immensely. I’m eating better, sleeping better, and living life to the full and I’ve got running to thank for it.


Posted: November 6, 2016 in poem, poetry, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

they stared through
the window
nothing moved
no sounds were heard
life was frozen
using their imagination
the painting came to life

the whisky glass
tainted his view
distorted reality
made it difficult
to see the truth

gazing at reflections
in the mirrored glass
i could pause my life
whilst scrutinising
everybody else’s

a second

Posted: November 4, 2016 in Poems, poetry, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , ,

here for a second
we can do so much
yet all we want is more


he looks through
his glass skin
sees his pulsing heart
and realises how much
he has to offer

wait…be patient
that window you
have waited for
may just open…