Category Archives: Running (The Just Dump It Project)
It was a first outing to the Old Vic in Ashburton. I have only recently met Richard through his wife. She was working in the same NHS trust as me and as the 6 Nations started, it seemed like the ideal place to watch a bit of rugby. Wales played. I can’t remember against whom, possibly England or France. It was the start of the 2009 season and the Welsh were hungry to retain the title they won the previous year.
Although the details are slightly blurred, somewhere during the evening, we met Eilir, Stuart and Stuart’s dad. I wish I could say that the conversations were deeply intellectual, but I must confess that by that time voices were already harsh in the attempts to stay audible over the pub’s noise in between encouraging the team of your choice. I backed the Welsh, my adopted northern hemisphere team. My choice was before finding out that Eilir and Stuart were backing the boys in red. Although thinking back, it would have been obvious given their vocal support that was fuelled on by the Otter Ale. During half-time or possibly afterwards we discussed life in Devon and how my family and I ended up in the glorious part of South-West England. It was Stuart who in his inclusive manner invited us to join their Thursday Football group. Famously among those in the know as “The Ashburton Dad’s Football Club”.
I must admit that it took some courage to take on their offer. The idea was attractive. In the world of mental health, “boy time” is often limited and my profession tends to dwell on the emotional, the intuitive and the relational. But I managed to get some “kit” and some courage. At that point I have yet not admitted that my prior football experience consisted of about 60 minutes of chasing a football. Once. I have played rugby union. I have played cricket and tennis (both badly) and have attempted several other activities that involved round shaped objects. But more often than not, I discovered that I had the passion, while the natural talent and skill were lacking. But then, why should that come in the way of a good time!
I managed to find the pitch on my first venture out. It was cold and rainy – typical. I was probably one of the early arrivals. Over-eager; as always. Nervous to arrive early; as always. The first person I met was Graham. Slightly over-conscious I introduced myself and made reference to Eilir and Stuart’s invitation. It was quite easy to speak to Graham. Hearing where I was from, he referred to his early years in Swaziland and that their family spend time in the northern parts of South Africa. The next hour involved middle aged men running about on the pitch, several claims of illegal play while I tried to gain to decipher what is allowed and what not. Dave quickly pointed out (aka shouting at me) that diving tackles were not part of the game, while it became clear from Tony’s game plan that the off side rule did not apply. It was great. I was a boy again among two teams of slightly overweight and ageing boys. And that was prior to the philosophical discussion back at the Old Vic afterwards.
And so it continued. Relationships grew. Often taking the mickey was a significant component of post match discussions while we enjoyed a few Otter Ales, some warm chips supplied by Nick and Gemma at the Old Vic and while on tour to Cardiff and Bath. In between the football, ale, laughs and scheming on changing the world, there were moments of seriousness. One point of reference was Grahams’ treatment for stomach cancer a few years before. But this did not deter from pulling his leg and his brush with death.
When our family returned from England, I knew that I would miss playing football every Thursday night. Well, saying football, I mean having a roaring time and occasionally running into a few guys (apologies to Joe, Marco, Nick). And defending like hell. Thursday night football became an integral part of my routine and from the first game that left me unable to climb stairs to becoming more fit and competitive over time. I missed it and was grateful for the kind farewell wishes after my last game and well-wishes on my transfer to the “African Ankle-bitters” (!). But a year after our return I heard that Graham became ill again. The cancer returned.
As I mentioned before, the post-football banter was mostly light hearted and full of jest. But underlying was a caring whenever an ADFC member was in need of it. So with Graham’s return to treatment, it came as no surprise that the football guys were planning to run the Rotterdam Marathon in support of Graham and his fight against Cancer. I could not be left out and declared my willingness to run the SAD half-marathon and a local trail run. My training went well. I noted from the http://www.just-dump-it.com/ site that my colleagues up north were training and received information on the finishing of the marathon on the 2nd of April 2012 and how they raised 4400 UK pounds for the Rowcroft Hospice.
But Graham died. He could not go to Rotterdam with the boys and passed away on the 25th of April 2012. It was while thinking about him that I completed my half marathon in Wellington South Africa on the 1st of May 2012. It is celebrating Graham’s life tonight and raising a drink a glass of red wine while the AFDC is raising a glass to him in Ashburton. It is looking at the picture of flowers that was put on his grave today and knowing that time is precious even though we are all fragile.
This one is for you Graham. Saluté!
I never would’ve imagined a sentence that combined the words “my” and “neurosurgery”. Are those really my brain scans? Were they not mixed up somewhere? Nope, apparently not. I am scheduled for a craniotomy for tomorrow afternoon.
I know that I am not unique. What right do I have on a life without challenges or even suffering? Life’s bag of curveball might not have names on it. That’s why I have never even considered to ask, “Why me?” My friend W.S. send me a bbm to update me on his wife’s breast cancer treatment. My friend Graham died of cancer earlier this year in Devon (UK). I read about the death toll of a taxi and a truck that collided last week. My cousin’s wife had brain surgery on Thursday past. On a daily basis at my practice I hear about people’s struggles with depression, anxiety or the unhappiness that haunts their relationships. So, I ask myself, “why not me?”
It just feels unreal. Unreal, although the nerves (14 hours to go) might indicate it is real. Maybe it’s because I am symptom free. At my last visit, my neurosurgeon (another unlikely self-reference and conversation stopper) asked about headaches. I was not sarcastic when I replied, “Well, there has been two in the last 2 months. I don’t do headaches”. I have not had any further seizures since that eventful night on the 17th of May. No Hollywood nose bleeds. No moments of confusion, blurred vision or completely inappropriate behaviour (not anything that would be regarded as abnormal for me). I ran two ½ marathons in May and have clocked nearly 400km running kilometres since February. Basically from the eyes down, I am really very well!
I have always considered myself fortunate. Things always had a way of working out or I managed to land on my feet when the fan sent the paw-paw flying. Apart from one very tragic event in our family 21 years ago (maybe I will tell you one day), I am thankful and blessed on the opportunities that life has provided me over the past 42 years. Living in both South Africa and the United Kingdom has been good and I am still amazed at the work and life experienced that Anneén and I received. The people that we met along the way became friends; stunning people became good friends. I can’t identify with Michael Astrov, a character I once played in the Anton Chekov play “Uncle Vanya” in London (it was all amateur dramatics, but we took it very seriously). He said, “In principle I love life, but this particular one?”
[As a side note I noted a new version of Uncle Vanya with Cate Blanchett as Yelena … I wonder if they are still looking for a Astrov?].
OK, at this point you might think I am OK with it all, he sounds reasonable on top of everything, no complete breakdown or emotional sloppiness. I actually feel quite calm as I write. I can’t avoid what lies ahead. I need to jump into the void and trust the hands, ears and brains of those holding the medical tools. Maybe holding my life, my future. Yip, that’s a freak-out thought. Hold on, need to get back in the “here and now”, back into my safe place – my rational side. Think I’ve got the balance back.
[The next bit is not for the faint hearted – only the brave and those with love in their hearts are allowed to enter.]
The fears are still hunting in the shadows and I don’t want to pay them too much attention (remember not to feed them). But they are fears that are new to me. The cloak of invincibility has always been strong, kept them at bay. But now, they whisper things in the dark. They know what to say to make me sit up in bed and feel my chest pushing in on me. If I was single and not a dad, they would not be able to do this, the cloak would have protected me. But now, I hear them and the fear by-pass my logic. Strangely the scary words are mostly not about me. Off course I worry about the impact of the operation on me and who I am. However, the whispers of not seeing my girls growing up, not growing old with Anneén…
It is raining. It is soothing. The fears don’t like to get wet. Neither do they like love. Michael Leunig’s little poem is a great help in moments like this.
There are only two feelings,
Love and fear;
There are only two languages,
Love and fear;
There are only two activities,
Love and fear;
There are only two motives, two procedures, two frameworks, two results,
Love and fear,
Love and fear.
Time to go to bed. Checking on my two little girls. They sleep like angels. A variety of soft animals sharing their pillows, look sleepy at me. I just feel love. No need to go to any safe place, I am already there.
“Anton explains the reasons behind his decision to run the ‘Sad & Nuts Half Marathon’ (If you feel you need more clarification, read on)” [First published on the 12th of April 2012 as part of the Just Dump It Project – http://www.just-dump-it.com/2012/running-the-african-leg-ii ]
There is a difference between watching from the sidelines and participating in the race. Apart from that one requires more energy than the other, I am starting to realise that there must be other differences. Like a puppy let out in a field full of rabbits, I find it difficult to just sit back and watch with a mouthful of popcorn. Actually that’s completely untrue. However, I have made my peace with that slightly over-weight figure in my sub-conscious now sporting new running shoes. I won’t regard myself a runner yet, but I have come to terms with this life in motion business and am jogging along to the mixed tape.
So inspired by the Dumper Runners (it is Dumper and not Dumping?), as well as wanting to contribute my share to Graham and the McMillan Nurses, I went in search of a race. Probably as I did not make my decision on a Thursday night after football, I decided on a half. Now, I know want you are going to say, “Why a half and when you can order a proper pint?” I can only answer by saying, “Sober reason”. Yes, sober reason can be overrated and less exciting, but doing my first ever “run” longer than 10 km, chances are that half of me might just survive.
I took a leave out of the Dumper Runners’ pamphlet in deciding to find something with which I can personally connect. I mean why else would they have entered the only marathon in the world that you have to run in drag and clogs? The answer came to me via a brief Google search. Could there be a better race for a psychologist than the “SAD and Nuts half marathon”?! OK, it is abbreviated from the SAFARI Dried Fruit and Nuts ½ marathon, but still (http://www.safarihalfmarathon.co.za/). Ideally this would have coincided with the Rotterdam Marathon, but joggers don’t have the breath to articulate choices. So, I will do my half part, aka the African Leg, on the 1st of May. However, in an unusual show of commitment, I have entered a second race to add to the mileage. On the 21st of April, I will do a local mountain trail run (http://vista.org.za/). Some say that 12km of this feels like a half marathon.
In doing my research on this running business, I have consulted a few local experts and hope that some of these might also be helpful to the Dumper Runners in Rotterdam:
1. To stay motivated, find a running partner. Ideally one that’s always keen to run, have few excuses on cold mornings, is willing to set a fast pace and doesn’t mind if you drink his or her pint. The only problem with mine (called Viggo), is his embarrassing habit to relieve himself when we encounter other runners or walkers.
2. Find a trustworthy weather forecaster. This would exclude someone consulting bones, sticks or crystal wine glasses. Weather-consciousness makes sense if you consider that during the summer, temperatures might still be in the high 20’s (Celsius) at dusk and this week it snowed on nearby mountains, while temperatures might soar into the low 30’s over the weekend.
3. If running in the early morning between vineyards, be on the lookout for snakes as they may come out after a cool night to warm up in the sun.
4. Moisturise. I know it is not sexy to smell like Oil o’ Oregano (although it might in Rotterdam), but looking like a raisin is not required to run the Dried Fruit and Nuts half marathon.
5. Be cautious when nature calls and it is a number 2. Some form a cacti, especially the more phallic shaped ones, might be embarrassing to explain and painful to be removed at your local surgery.
6. Take in enough fluid. Especially on hot days. However, make sure you are upstream from wherever it was where you took that dump.
7. Although Zola Budd has gained immortality with her barefoot running (the original ankle biter?) and local long distant taxis are often referred to as “Zola Budds” (in local cockney rhyme fashion), good running shoes are essential and clogs are discouraged. Good practice is to check your running shoes for any creepy crawlies that might have stayed the night.
8. Map your progress. This could be in the form of distance covered, personal best times or weight loss. This may act as motivator as you still have the strength to write.
9. Get your family and friends onboard. This would reduce the number of people laughing at you when you are being dragged behind an overexcited dog chasing a cat with a bit of cacti stuck to your behind….
“Anton takes some time out from training to talk about salty treats and brotherhood“. [First published on the 15th of March 2012 as part of the Just Dump It project – http://www.just-dump-it.com/category/featured/antons-odyssey ]
It is a strange place in a man’s soul that lights up when he embraces that thing he hates. For some it could be finding a real job. For some it could be gardening tools. For some it is dressing up in drag at your daughters’ birthday. For me it is running. Yes, I have to admit it. The pointless, scurrying from point A to point B and back to A. To scuttle, to locomote, to dart, to jog, to ramble, to trot, to sprint or by which other name you want to call this physical exertion. I mean if there was a ball to chase, it would make sense. But carrying my torso forward at speed, with lungs burning and sweat dripping, I just hate it.
But at times there is a place in a man’s soul that lights up. It is a place often forgotten or locked up after Aunt Let’s traumatic tennis lesson in 1979 in the blazing hot sun when you realised you hate playing tennis. Yes, it is place in a man’s soul that often received very little attention, as it cannot be used to fix something, to show off something or to “braai” (bbq) something. It is that place in a man’s soul where his Purpose is snacking on salty treats and carrying a bit of extra weight.
There is a place in a man’s soul that lights up when his Purpose is rudely awakened by an intruder. That intruder can be a realisation (“hey, I like wearing drag!”), a loving mother’s voice (“why don’t you get a real job?”) or that Intruder can be a friend’s cancer (the least sexy bastard in the intruder line-up). But when it comes knocking and your Purpose arose from its deep slumber, there is just one thing to do. That thing you hate. That thing that unites the other Purpose slobs into a brotherhood. Then you put your running shoes on and you fucking run!
(First posted on the 21st of February 2012 as part of the Just Dump It project – http://www.just-dump-it.com/2012/hitchhiking-to-rotterdam-2 )
Planning your hitchhiking route through Africa takes a fair amount of skill, research and alcohol. Basically the same stuff that goes into planning a run in Rotterdam. Although the minor differences include crossing 17046 km of territories with varying degrees of friendliness, hiding small bribes in various bodily cavities and managing your goats well. Goats? Did I not mention that local custom dictates that contribution to charity events has to be in goat currency? Although the other challenges would be a light run in the park, goats make me nervous… and finding a suitable ride could prove tricky…
Given that the Match of the Day map nowadays does not venture much further south than Fulham (although Mr Redneck might fondly recall printing Euros at Portsmouth and Southampton), a brief geography overview might be in order. Travelling nearly 1180 miles north, South Africa’s borders are shaped by both the Oranje (celebrating our Dutch roots) and Limpopo (celebrating our African roots) rivers, which allows our neighbours from Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana and Namibia to visit if they can overcome their crocodile phobia. If one reach these beautiful countries (from the tropical east to the dry Kalahari Desert in the West), one has to face the challenges that each presents. In the case of Mozambique there is the unfortunate issue of human-lion contact (see insert below), Zimbabwe has Bob (some might prefer the lion contact) and Namibia has Brad and Angelina popping babies.
That leaves Botswana as a possible gateway to the rest of Africa. Unfortunately Botswana is populated with the one animal that makes me more nervous than goats. Donkeys. Yes, donkeys.
Before making assumptions about the inherent good nature of these grey beasts or my inherent anti-donkey notions, I need to point out that the African donkey is far removed from its cousins that populate places such as Pennywell or the Sidmouth Donkey Sanctuary. African donkeys are beneukd (meaning: bad spirited) and bedonnerd (see beneukd and add tooth ache). What makes them even more bad-tempered is the African Brake-System (ABS) they are subjected to.
In order to ensure that one’s donkey does not abandon thee in the bush and without essential belongings packed on donkey-cart, ABS entails tying the above mentioned donkey’s front legs together. Thus, donkey cannot run off. On the down side, being chased by a hopping donkey can be a deeply traumatic experience (see “Curse of the Were-Rabbit” for an accurate depiction).
It appears that I am landlocked. My challenge seems to be over before I even lifted a thumb. Further disheartening is that directions north include entries such as “Turn left at شارع بورسودان”, “Pass the old Elephant Tree cautiously” and “Do not feed the evil spirits”… However, I foresee the biggest challenge to be the 200 wineries and grape producers around Stellenbosch that I have to pass first…
Africa correspondent Anton Bohmer talks about his imminent journey to Rotterdam…and his left nipple … (first posted on the 6th of February 2012 on http://www.just-dump-it.com/)
Some people are classified as “mad” when their behaviour are bizarre and the opposite of public expectation. Others see this as an essential component of normality. So when I heard about the Just-Dump-It project, my first instinctive thoughts were, “madness … as expected”. It also triggered all those old insecurities of being left out, not being chosen, ignored, labelled as having 3 left feet. Being 10 000 sea miles away, slightly softened the blow … slightly. Not that I ever thought that I would have the commitment to get my lazy butt off the deckchair and willpower to put my Long Island Ice Tea aside to put on running shoes and train for a marathon in Rotterdam. I mean, just look at that cute little umbrella …
But despite my rejection issues, distance from Euro-zone and idle inclination, there was a sharp twinge in my chest. It took me a while to recognise the source, but when I did, it made sense: The spot where Graham’s shoulder once hit me on an unfortunate Thursday night, just below the left nipple. And just next to, what I call, Joe’s special place …
Although the awareness did not bring tears to my eyes, it suddenly brought a feeling of loss. How I miss those Otter Ales … and the Old Vic’s free Thursday night chips … sigh… and those guys … uh yes … them … Somehow, the feeling did not stop there and I realised, I have to be a part of this. I need to contribute, I can make a difference. I need to get to Rotterdam. After all, my star-sign is Cancer…