Happy Solstice! Happy Christmas!


Waiting for Dawn. Solstice at Newgrange 2014

Solstice, a new year and new beginnings, right?

Well, I am ready for that on several levels.  But first, let’s get the excuses out of the way…

I fell off the blogging wagon in November. A weekend work conference, the day job, and family shenanigans were the main reasons. Though, of course, laziness figures somewhere in there too!

I kept up the running though. Nothing serious. Nothing too difficult. Just concentrating on enjoying the break from all of the above and in keeping a modicum of fitness.

But, in the past fortnight, even that has taken a dive too.

Luckily, I have rounded a bend. Actually, climbed over the peak. And now am basking in clear views of wonderful skies and more adventures ahead.

I can only hope it involves more running, more blogging, more culture, more history and, of course, lots of fun.

Lining up with the shamans, the hippies, the little kids, the locals, the tourists and the new Irish, I waited at Newgrange for the rising sun. Cloud cover obscured that view but it was enough to see darkness turn to light. Enough to see a fringe of palest pink on the easterly horizon. Enough to hear the beat of the bodhrán, the delighted ululations and greetings everywhere of “Happy Christmas!” “Happy Solstice!”

Here’s to starting over and to everyone starting over everywhere.







Lest We Forget

It’s not all fun and games, running and cooking here at the Hen House, you know. I like to indulge in a spot of old-fashioned study too.

November is the perfect month to indulge. Especially with all the war commemoration stuff on now.

Have you heard of MOOCs? They’re Massive Online Open Courses. Taster courses for universities, they offer you a few weeks of structured reading and online engagement with materials on a wide range of subjects.

Last September I engaged on a five week course on the history of Ireland from 1912-1923. This was delivered in collaboration with Trinity College Dublin and it was utterly fascinating.

This month I’m dallying around the difficult subject of trauma and injury inflicted in World War One.

Not the prettiest of topics, but timely and enlightening. It’s presented by the Open University and, with two more weeks to run on a three week course, you still have time to sign up.

Apart from the fact that they are free, MOOCs added attractions are that they draw on a wide variety of methodologies to engage the learner. So, one can download transcripts via pdf, for instance, or just follow the video clips. And the learner is also guided towards the best of online resources and to books to encourage one’s own research.

Discussion with fellow learners is also widely encouraged.  And, quite often, one can glean an enormous amount just from reading through the comments.

There are courses on everything. Not just history. I’ve signed up for a management one next year and am hoping they’ll run a journalism one again because I missed it last time round.

Nothing on running yet though. Or how to get one’s sad ass out there on a dark wet November morning.  Though my trawls through the trenches in this week’s MOOC have certainly put rain-sodden rambles into perspective.

Yes, no harm to think of those who have sacrificed so much for our comforts to-day. Lest we forget.

More information on futurelearn course here. 


If you have participated in a MOOC already, I’d love if you’d let us know about it in a post, or here in a comment.

Inspiring Runners


Christine Kennedy

Christine Kennedy-link to photo source and article here

Is there something wonderful going on in Senior Running?

I am prompted to think this by the many posts of veteran runner, Mary Lou Harris and the following  comment from Mary Lou on one of my Dublin City Marathon posts:

Great reporting and photography. I just came across a Running Times article about Christine Kennedy, age 59, who won the Dublin Marathon back in 1982 and this year ran a 2:59 marathon (apparently an age record).

Senior women are burning up the roads and the records this year.

Christine Kennedy, as it turns out, is a Galway woman, long settled in California, where she co-owns two running shops and runs up to 85 miles per week. Inspired by the inaugural Dublin City Marathon of 1981, she vowed that she would run it too, even though, at that point she was very unfit. She commenced training that year and, in October 1982, she ran her first marathon in 3 hours 31 minutes.

In 1990 Christine was the first woman home in the Dublin marathon in a time of 2:41:27 and she repeated that success the following year in a time of 2: 35:36.

Long settled in America, and, with years of great competitions and success behind her, Christine is now focussed on being the first lady in the F60 category to run a sub 3 hour marathon. She has targeted Boston 2015 for this attempt.

I put that proposed time in perspective by digging through the results page on the Dublin City Marathon website.  It’s well worth perusing the stats there to see the state of play in this country for senior women. And, although we’re not close to having an F60 woman run a sub-3 hour marathon, the results are still very heartening.

There are three women in the F75 category, with the lead lady Anette Olsson coming in at 5 hours 8 minutes and 44 seconds.

The F70 category has eleven runners in total with Frances Brelauer leading the category with a finish time of 4:35:57.

The F65 category has a best finish time from Sue Nicholl of 3:43:45

While the F60 winning time is delivered by Mary Lynch on 3:45:44.

The important thing, in my book, is not that the records are broken, but that everyone takes fitness seriously, as a means of enhancing their quality of life. If aiming to beat one’s own PR, one’s neighbour, or break a record drives that goal on, then that’s a good thing.

Just seeing older people out there running, inspires all of us. Women in this country especially, have not always been encouraged to do this in the past. However, Dublin marathon participation rates for older ladies compare very favourable with popular marathons such as Prague and Boston, and, given the numbers of younger women who have taken up running in recent years, the senior race participation rates should increase a lot in the years to come

My body serves me very well but, a reality check tells me that it’s more of a trusty Volvo than a nippy little Porsche. Even with all the training on the planet, I am not going to break any landspeed records any time soon.

 I do enjoy being fit, though. And I do believe fitness of for everyone, not just the super duper elite athletes.
 Sure, there’s that little nagging voice going on that mocks my efforts and chides me:
Hey, aren’t you too old for this?
Is this really doing you any good?”
” Wouldn’t it be nicer just to curl up with a great book?”
And, much though I’d especially like to concede to the last point, I know I have to keep getting out there to benefit from the cardiovascular conditioning that regular aerobic exercise provides.
Our running elders are guiding the way to a healthier, fitter future. A future that’s there for any of us with a little luck and a lot of effort. Of course, it doesn’t have to happen through running either. But I suppose, what with all the events on offer, from parkruns to marathons, there’s a lot of opportunity these days to enjoy running.
Mary Lou Harris has a lovely post about Olga Kotelko and her super senior running successes. Olga is 94.
So c’mon, if we all keep moving, maybe we’ll be wonderful in our F90 or M90 years too!


The Fall

My fall on Sunday was a slap in the face. Almost literally. Three miles in on a long slow run and I crashed to the ground. Splat!
Now, if this sounds familiar, yes, I did the same thing and, in almost the same place two weeks prior. Not such a coincidence, though, when we’re talking about the same disintegrating pathway from Skerries to Balbriggan.
The funny part was, that in that millisecond before I embraced the pavement, I noted a cool sports car coming down the road.  So, as I made my grand descent, it wasn’t my life I saw flashing before me. No, it was a low slung, sleek, silver, motor and one very alarmed male driver.
Yep, he  saw everything: total smackdown. I felt like a right eedjit altogether, and, even though it was so tempting just to lay there and reflect on my injures, I knew couldn’t bear to be fussed over.
So I jumped up like a hare. A wobbly, old hare, it has to be said.
“Are you okay?”  Yep, Mr Cool Sportscar had pulled over, was out of his car and walking towards me.
But I was in full-blown denial mode.
“Oh, I’m fine” I said, smiling and suppressing the need to keel over in mortal agony.
He hesitated but I smiled again, waved my least sore, least bloodied palm and watched as he he drove off. Then,grateful for an adjacent low wall, I hobbled over to assess the damage.
Luckily, my capri leggings were doing a great job in staunching both knee wounds, and I addressed the bloody palms with some nearby leaves.  But my left elbow was in a bad way. The pain from reach down along through my fingers.  And I couldn’t be sure if the lump at the end of  it was a permanent feature, a recently bestowed gift from  Mother Nature from her over supplied ageing department, or a protesting bone trying to peek out.  My head was throbbing. I was glad of the wall.
I glanced down the road again and there was Mr Cool. Oh God. He thinks I am a little old lady and I am going to die here on the side of the road. Can’t he see I am twenty two?
I waved and smiled. See, I am fine? He waved and drove off again. Such a nice man.
But now he was gone and I was all alone.
A three mile run is one thing. A three mile hobble back into town was another.
I was freezing. My head hurt and my elbow was probably broken and blood was trickling down my fingers. Maybe I would die, after all.
It was all a question of how. Maybe a fragment of bone would seep out, lodge in my brain and kill me. Or maybe that blow to the head would lead to a haemorrage. Or shock could set in and that could be fatal too, couldn’t it?
Then I thought about how much I did not want to go to A&E. A&E, Accident and Emergency to us here in Ireland, Emergency Room to you. But, honestly, that’s where the comparison ends.
A&E, Any Hospital, Ireland is a hole of a place, full of drunks, junkies, puking people, bawling babies and the broken ones. The bawling babies get seen to first. Thank goodness. After that, the triage system would probably mean oh, a mere four hours to be seen and then another few of hours to be shuttled S L O W L Y through the system.
Eventually, they’d slap a cast on, and, as a precaution, and given the potential head injury, I’d be kept in for observation overnight. Between that upheaval and brandishing a plaster cast, my life as I knew it, would be turned upside down for at least a couple of months. Oh God.
I decided my elbow COULD NOT be broken. Sure it’d be grand in a couple of days. Nevertheless, I could only walk with elbow attenuated, as if it were in an invisible sling.
My head was another matter. Luckily, the band on my beanie had cushioned some of the fall. But still it hurt. It scared me more than the elbow injury as I was afraid of fainting or worse on that lonely road. Haemorrage, stroke, concussion. Who knows?
I cursed my stupidity at letting Mr Cool get away.
All of it made me feel fragile. To go from utterly enjoying the scene, my run, the gift of being able to trot along for ten miles, to suddenly feeling frail, alone and vulnerable was shocking.
My lack of preparation for such an event was shocking too. No phone. No extra clothing. No drink. Nothing on board, except a stubborn nature which refused help when offered.
I got some strange looks as I limped back towards Skerries. While clothing screamed runner, my gait said frail little old lady. Mud encrusted my top and my capris were torn at one knee.
As for letting Mr Cool. Knowing my luck the guy was probably an orthopaedic surgeon. Or a physical therapist. Or a masseuse. More likely, knowing my propensity to let a good man get away, he was probably all three.
The return three miles took a lot longer than the run out, of course. A reminder, whether I needed it or not, as to why I prefer running to going for a walk. Eventually, though, I caught sight of my car. Never was I so glad to see it as it glinted a fine welcome in the afternoon light.
Home brought a welcome shower, a change of clothes and a chance to assess the damage. Which really was another exercise in convincing myself that I did not want to take the trip to A&E.
A few days down the track, and luckily for me, I am on the mend.
Sure, that head blow probably killed off some much needed grey matter but otherwise it’s fine. The bruise even had the decency to centre itself behind my hair line.
The surprise blow was to my feet. Whatever jolt I took, or maybe it was on the hobble home, the chronic tendonitis issue has resurfaced again. After a one mile test run on Thursday, I headed for home. I need this to recover and running on it won’t help.
It’s a minor sacrifice for a lot of lessons.
One lesson is to be Stop Whinging and Be Glad. I am damned glad that I can run need to appreciate every second of that. Because one day it will be gone forever. Pffffft! Snuffed out like a candle.
Oh, and there’s a lesson for the people in Fingal County Council too: Fix That Footpath. It’s a bloody dangerous mess.  I won’t go running there again because, despite what they say, I do believe, it would not be a case of third time lucky.
But, of course, the most important lesson is this: no matter what the circumstances, no matter how you feel, no matter what the reason, Never Let A Good Man Get Away.