Fat Man On The Move

Not me. I don't like red.

Not me. I don’t like red.

One of the common questions I hear from non-runners is don’t you get bored spending hours out on the run?

Generally not is my answer – sometimes I enjoy a bit of solitude, sometimes I like to run with others and have a bit of a natter, and occasionally I like to read a book. That’s when they often walk away shaking their head.

Of course I don’t mean actually read printed words, at my age I need to be sat very still and hold things at a specific distance from my eyes to even focus on it properly. No, what I’m talking about are audiobooks.

It doesn’t seem that long ago (yet again a sign of my advancing age) that listening to anything on the go meant a shaky cassette deck which only had a fast forward and no rewind. Couple that with a crappy pair of headphones that never stayed on your ears and the whole experience was far from great.

Even when portable compact disc players came along you still had to make sure they didn’t shake about too much for fear of skipping and even if you managed that then listening to a whole recording of a book meant taking half a dozen discs out with you.

Things are different nowadays though, with pretty much everyone having some form of digital device in their pocket most of the time it’s simple to download an audiobook (or even more than one) and take it out with you wherever you go. On the bus, on the run, even on the toilet if you like. Just make sure you wash your hands before turning the volume up after.

With the ability to pack entire tomes of literature into your pocket, audiobooks make fantastic companions for those long solo runs. Lace up, plug in and jog on. You can get your miles in and tick off your reading list at the same time. It’s true multitasking.

After listening to a few good books whilst out on long training runs myself I thought that getting Fat Man to Green Man down in digital audio form would be a great idea to help others tick off those long miles.

Being a hands-on kind of guy my first thought was to record it myself. So I spoke to some people in the know, got my hands on some equipment and jumped in and started recording. Two weeks later and only having completed (an extremely dubious) first chapter I decided that maybe it was something best left to the professionals.

Cue a meeting with me, my publisher, and professional narrator Nick Rawlinson over a beer one night in Bristol. We’d given Nick a copy of the book to read in advance and by the time we met up he had read it through a couple of times and really liked it. So the business side of things was taken care of and Nick went into the studio to start the ball of production rolling.

I have to say I was nervous at first. Even having heard some of Nick’s previous work I was a bit worried about how he would present my words. Obviously whenever anyone reads anything they put a voice and intonation to it in their own head, and never more so than when you’ve written it yourself, so to hand your own creation over to somebody else to represent it audibly is somewhat concerning at first. That was until I heard the first sample of it and all my fears disappeared. It was brilliant.

Once all the recording had been finished I listened back to the whole thing and was gobsmacked. To hear somebody else voice your story is to be honest a little surreal, but you quickly settle into the tale and are soon whisked away into the world the narrator is portraying directly into your head. It made me smile, laugh and even shed a tear at times, and I know the story pretty well.

After hearing the job that Nick has done with the book I laugh at the very notion that I ever considered I could do it myself. Sure I like to talk a lot, but narrating properly is a serious skill. I’m just glad I realised that early on.

The audiobook edition of Fat Man to Green Man is available for download now from Audible, Amazon and iTunes. Depending upon your device and preferences you can now take it with you wherever you go, and all without having to take the tape out and turning it around to rewind. Kids today don’t know they’re born.

Why not download a copy today and take it out on your next long run? Let me know what you think.

A Night Out With Friends

According to Elton John, Saturday Night’s alright for fighting, but if you’re tight for time to bag a few extra miles and don’t mind missing out on a punch-up and a pint then it’s also pretty good for a midnight run. What better night is there to spend time out running the trails in the dark and not have to worry about getting up in the morning?

With the Green Man Midnight Express coming up around the end of August I knew a few people were thinking of getting out and learning the route, particularly as a big chunk of the race is run in the dark, so I figured why not slot in a night run and invite a few friends along too?

But how many folk would be interested in running around the edge of Bristol in the dark when they could be down the pub or tucked up in a cosy bed? I put out a call to arms on the Green Man Challenge Facebook group, and within a couple of days there were a dozen crazy running fools willing to spend their Saturday night with me in the woods.

Big Bling

Massive bling up for grabs

Whether all the folk were training for the Midnight Express or not was unimportant really, but after all meeting up at midnight and starting to run the atmosphere was lively and fun and that’s all you really want from a night out.

Most of the people didn’t know some of the others and some were old friends. Some had never run a trail run in the dark before, others were seasoned experts, but the conversation rippled between small groups and pairs as the group mixed itself up as we ran through the night. Miles were covered and friendships made. It was just really good fun.

Also for me it was a great opportunity to get out and try and get a few more miles in on the Community Forest Path which I’ve been unable to do of late after spending the last three months on and off running with injury.

Without wanting to tempt fate, it (the pesky persistent injury) all seems to be clearing up and just in the nick of time for some late summer and autumn races coming up.

Whatever the reason for venturing out into the night the meeting of a group of like-minded individuals and running from Blaise Estate to Hambrook was a positive experience for all. Elton might be right, Saturday might be a good night for a punch-up but it’s also a great night for a run with friends. Try it out yourself one time.

The Green Man Midnight Express starts at midnight on Friday 21st August. If you fancy a friendly, low-key, 45 mile night ultra around Bristol then why not look it up. Many of us will be there.

What is the power of parkrun?

When I first heard about parkrun I thought it was a great idea – a local, free and inclusive run. As a runner that sounded fantastic, but I never stopped to think about the true power of parkrun, about how it’s much more than just a run in the park.

This is Roy Hale. Roy is 77 years young and a lovely bloke. His dog is called Cooper and a lovely dog.

Roy is one of the regular marshals at Pomphrey Hill where I am a run director. He turns up almost every week regardless and gives out encouragement to everyone running past him, doing the diligent job a marshal should. He never asks for anything in return nor has a negative word to say.

After first coming along to watch his grandchildren run, Roy found out his neighbours were keen parkrunners and asked them to register him so he could keep coming back and helping out. As much as anything it gave him something to do on a Saturday morning.

Roy is one of the many people I see and talk to most weekends at parkrun. I always thank him for volunteering, I talk to him about the weather; about parkrun; about Cooper, and I thank him every time I run past him, but until recently I didn’t really know much about him.

I knew he was friendlier with some of our regulars than others, but didn’t know why, and generally being busy directing or running I never found out why.

But a couple weeks ago something happened. After twenty-one weeks volunteering, Roy decided to run – all three laps of Pomphrey Hill. He ran the whole thing from “it’s a run not a race”, right up to “well done, here’s your finish token.” It took me by surprise as Roy didn’t strike me as a runner, but who does?

That is part of the power of parkrun – that people who aren’t regular runners and don’t care about splits or GPS watches can turn up on a Saturday at their local parkrun and be a part of it. Whatever their age, fitness, or ability they are welcomed with open arms and supported from start to finish.

But that isn’t even its true power. The real power comes from the meeting of people. The sheer genius of one simple statement – “parkrun is a run not a race”, makes it welcoming and inviting to everybody. At its heart parkrun is about community.

For whatever reason, Roy Hale decided he was going to run 5K at Pomphrey Hill. Why? Well, only Roy can answer that. But as I watched him finish his first ever parkrun it reminded me why I love it so much.

He smiled the whole way around and was still grinning when I caught up with him later. People supported him; cheered him on; and spoke to him about it after. For a recent widower like Roy that is the power of parkrun. It’s the bringing together of people.


When I was twenty-one years old I went on my first trip abroad. After spending years having caravan holidays in Weymouth as a child I’d never even been on a plane, so the very idea of jetting off to a foreign land was super exiting. With two friends I went to California for a couple of weeks, enticed by seeing Venice Beach after watching the film Breakdance too many times.

I had been brainwashed by Hollywood. It was the only place I had ever wanted to go and subsequently had built the magic of the place up in my head. When I got there Venice was actually a bit of a dive and something of a let-down. Then we went on a trip to Hollywood Boulevard and things dropped even further.

After checking out the walk of fame and reading some of the stars, I found myself at the opening to a small dark alley, ironically much like you stereotypically see in a film. Just a few feet into the alley was a guy looking at me whilst lifting his sweatshirt to reveal a gun tucked in his trousers. Making sure I saw the gun he beckoned to me to come into the alley. Now it might have been my first time in America, but I wasn’t a complete idiot, so I turned and bolted back to the safety of the tourist crowds.

This not being an action film nobody chased me, the guy was clearly a chancer looking to rob some wet-behind-the-ears tourist, much like me. That day it wasn’t me, but it certainly opened my eyes to the gun culture that pervades American society.

The thing is I’ve never been in the armed forces or anything like that, and with the exception of my dad’s old .22 air rifle I’d never even seen a real gun. Call me naive but I was happy to keep it that way. The one in the alley and the one a police officer waved at my friend for taking a piss down a lane near Newport Beach the next day were two guns too many in one trip for me.

For many Americans however guns really are a matter of daily life. The right to own a gun is written into the very constitution of the country – the second amendment. In fact for many boys growing up, certainly in the UK, one of the first tastes of American culture they experience is playing at being a cowboy and having a gun.

I’ve been to America many times since that first trip and have been lucky enough to stay with people all over the country, all of whom were fantastic and lovely people, even if some of them were gun owners. It’s a great country in so many aspects, but you have to accept that owning a gun in America is normal, like the rest of the world owning a dog. It’s a constitutional right. However despite being far from the only country where its population can freely own a gun, America really does have a gun problem.

America has pretty unique gun laws. Federal law says almost anyone can buy a gun, provided they are of age, the gun is not an assault rifle or machine gun, and they are not a felon, fugitive, or non-citizen.

It’s estimated that this year more people will be killed in America by guns than they are by cars, and this is in a country that has around 253 million cars and 320 million people. It also has an estimated 270 million guns (there is no central register).

None of this is however is new and it’s certainly not going to change anytime soon, but I stumbled across a tweet today that actually made me stop and gasp. It was from an account called RunHaven related to running and was simply a picture of a handgun and the words Why I Run With a Gun. I’m sorry? What now?

In the tweet was a link to an article by a lady who explains why she feels the need to run with a handgun. I read it with some disbelief, thinking it was a parody, but sadly it wasn’t.

The article is written by a cardiology nurse from Detroit who is also a licensed minister. She’s is clearly an educated and intelligent woman.

She has been running for a couple of years and has recently decided that to ensure she stays safe, she needs to carry a gun with her.

In the article she states that many people questioned her choice, which at first made me think that she was an isolated case, but perform a cursory search around the internet and you will see that it is in fact more common that a Brit could ever imagine. Sure not every runner in America packs a piece, but it’s clearly not a random act of safety by a scared few.

Within my first search I also came across this article, Why I Jog With A Gun And Why I Want You To Get One, Too which makes for scary reading, and this one giving tips for runners looking to carry Holster and Carrying Tips for Runners and Athletes. Incredible.

Now obviously I’m not saying the world is a happy-go-lucky place when men, women and children can roam the streets and trails free of fear and safe from harm, that clearly isn’t the world we live in and it can be a dangerous place, but to feel the need to have to carry a gun while you go out for a simple run is quite frankly tragic. I would argue that there is something fundamentally wrong with a society where such thinking is the norm.

You have to question why somebody honestly doesn’t feel safe out on the streets on their own without a lethal weapon for protection. Is it that their levels of fear are so elevated that everyone is a potential threat waiting to rob/rape/kill you when they see you out running alone? Or is it that in reality parts of America are actually closer to the anarchic world of Death Wish portrayed by Charles Bronson?

On the face of it the United States of America is a modern, moral and civilised country, but perhaps that’s nothing more than a Hollywood facade for the benefit of the rest of the world. I’d like to think that isn’t the case but I’m not entirely convinced.

Running whilst carrying a gun is common enough for companies to make holsters and in fact even sports clothing to cater for it, just as these compression shorts demonstrate. Not the sort of item you would see in Sports Direct for sure.

As our minister nurse explains, carrying a gun is a pre-emptive precaution that makes her feel safer, saying “Running with a weapon takes my fear away. Even running in a gated community, I’m always aware of any danger. Predators wait for the right opportunity before they strike.”

If people feel safer by carrying a weapon, and they are by law allowed to do so, then none of us have any say in the matter. But you have to step back and ask if more people carry guns then are you not ironically only elevating the danger? I’m no genius, but more guns on the streets can only mean a higher chance of somebody getting shot with one. That’s basic math(s).

Whether or not the actual threat is as high as the perceived one and so merits such a thing is another entirely. It strikes me that if it is then gun control isn’t the only thing that American society needs to worry about.

It’s like being a cowboy as a kid only finding out when you’ve grown up that the wild west was never actually tamed at all. I’ll stick to the UK thanks where all I have to worry about is a manky badger with a touch of TB.