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By Andy Mouncey, Jul 30 2021 11:32AM

‘Has he ever done anything like this before?’

The race paramedic looks up from the pale gasping fish incapacitated on the floor masquerading as an ultrarunner and across to Mrs Mouncey who is by this time, verging on the ‘somewhat perturbed.’


‘Well…’ she looks down at the pale gasping fish masquerading as her husband ‘He has a history of fainting at finish lines – a big sugar crash – but he usually recovers quite quick: sweet tea seems to work. But this…’ she waves at the thing she promised to love, honour and obey all those years ago, ‘is er, unusual.’

No shit, sister: I’m in the ‘somewhat perturbed’ space here too, y’know?


‘Here’ being the 89mile point on the Lakeland 100 www.lakeland100.com and the Ambleside checkpoint in the heart of The Lakes. Well aware I desperately needed to lie down in some shade, I’d propped myself up on Charlotte and lurched inside before collapsing like a rag doll in a quiet corner. My body however, was just getting started: My heart rate suddenly went through the roof and my breathing threatened to spiral out of control as the Heat Stroke Monster applied the final choke hold.


This the latest twisted chapter in what had been 24 hours of off-script mind-body games that I’d mostly managed to keep hidden.

Until I’d seen Charlotte and the boys here at Ambleside.



The fun stuff had kicked in early: We’d started at 6pm and it was still hot and stayed oppressively warm through the evening. I was drinking more than usual and still dripping.


The first signs of trouble came as early: I’d started slow and near the back and – god, PEOPLE!

NOISE!

People everywhere! Hordes at the start lining the roads and being part of a 500 strong field of runners again was vaguely unnerving. I was torn between blocking it out and taking it in so in the end I just walked and did both – which was a bit of a rollercoaster too.

‘Bit rusty with this crowds thing, then.


While I was working my way through consistently it was still all slow – I did my best to control my focus but for some reason I felt unsettled. And it unsettled me that I couldn’t figure that unsettled shit out either. The big picture was that forward progress was being made. But…


20miles came as darkness fell along with the first real nausea and stomach cramps that somewhat soured my appreciation of a stunning full moon rising behind us – and had me grumpy and even slower for the next 6miles through the mountins to the checkpoint at Buttermere.


Well aware I’d ate hardly anything and still didn’t feel like much I settled for attending to the fault light that was flashing brightest on my dashboard: I stretched out on my back on the ground to ease my cramping stomach muscles and just stayed there among the checkpoint traffic.

I wasn’t the only body stretched out either and I could hear lots of other tummy-related grumps.

Not just me then…


One final lumpy stage and 7miles would take me to the next CP at Braithwaite near Keswick and after that it becomes more runnable for a while.

This has got to get easier, right? Even if I bloody walk the next bit I can get a decent feed and recover…


In the back of my mind even I’m not sure of my powers of re-set after 6 hours through the mountains with very little fuel and lots of f**king about. First things first though: Stand up – eat something – start walking away.

I find I can get some soup down – and tea.

Lots of tea.

Then I chance it and go for a frankenfurter.

Which stays down.

Now the walking away bit.

Yep – that works too.


That frankenfurter is good shit – who knew?!

I manage to walk then shuffle then trot then actually feel like I was getting close to respectable running again on the long drop from the high point of the stage at around 600m. So I arrive at 33miles feeling the most ‘less-shit’ I’ve felt all race and even looking reasonably chipper judging by the comments from the CP crew.


Still don’t feel like eating much though – so it’s soup and tea until I put my big boy pants on and put away a small rice pudding as well.

‘Cos I know there’s trouble building if tummy keeps giving me the finger.


The other thing I notice is that I really need the sit down.

Really.

And as a rule I stay standing through a CP.

I also have rules about Eyes Front, Not Talking That Much & Preferring My Own Company – and I’ll break all those today as well.


It remains vest-only warm through the night.

The headtorch goes off at around 40miles and I’m in a pattern that I’ll hold to the big 59mile CP that is known as halfway on this 105mile route: Hike anything going remotely uphill, chug along the flats, be better than average on anything downhill, eat very little, swing between feeling okay-ish to okay-less – and be almost unbearably slow while still steadily passing folks.

It’s still almost bloody transformational compared to the first 30miles.


I find it very difficult to be consistently at peace with my present state without getting emotional leakage from my speedier races here. This is not helped by the fact that everything about my recent training indicated I was in good shape and not the Mr Misery that is currently trying to take over the party.

Or that I’ve been building up to this for 18months and it was supposed to be, well…

Er, a bit better than this??


Grind It Out mode really hits at the 66mile CP and my race dynamics change for good as I’m joined by two people I know of very well through their race achievements but don’t actually know at all:

Ben Abdelnoor is a top fell runner who also won the 50mile version here a few years ago when it was the UK Trail Running Champs, while Karen Nash is arguably the best F60 veteran ultrarunner we have racking up finishes and placings at most of the top events in Europe and this country over the years.


We’ve been crossing each other periodically during the first part of the race and we all arrive at this CP within a few minutes of each other. Ben’s on his first 100 miler while Karen and I are both way beyond that and just nursing our rebellious tums.


As we sit side by side minus any visible signs of urgency, one of the crew remarks along the lines of ‘in the presence of ultrarunning greatness…’

We look at each other and Karen says it for all of us:

‘Well, I don’t feel that great just at the moment, I can tell you.’


We hook up – and while there is some chat it’s mostly companionable silence. This, we decide, is the defining difference between the experienced folks and the newbies – so we bathe in our shared smugness and it carries us for a while.


This section takes us up and over the high point of the course and back into the mountainous stuff again. Our group rotates the lead periodically and the elastic will stretch and shorten and we still arrive at the 76mile CP more or less together. The heat has been steadily building, we’re all slow and only Ben is really eating anything like half decently.


But the mutual distraction is working to stave off the deterioration in us all that would have come earlier had we been flying solo.

So we stick with the threesome and two dodgy tummys.


It’s just really f**kin’ slow – and I have to drag myself up the next two huge climbs hanging off my poles. Fortunately Karen and Ben are locked in the same gear. Descending is better – remarkably we’re still passing people – but I know how much faster I can go / have gone on this bit and it chafes: Of my previous 5 outings in this race the last 2 have been beset by progressive power loss caused by energy depletion – and here I am again this time with tangible nausea and an even bigger disconnect between my expectations and reality.

F**kwit.

(sigh).


Compassionate self-care is clearly something I forgot to pack but it seems I did remember The Fridge. It straps itself to my back which delights Mr Misery and has me contemplating the Dark Side as the heat builds to oppressive once again in the final few miles into the next CP at 82miles. Ben and Karen are already there sampling the best thing we’ve all encountered at a CP all day: Bowls of fruit salad.

Finally! Something I feel like eating AND I can actually get down.

But I can only manage one and it’s a small one at that.


Karen knows it’s curtains to linger at this stage so she heads out.

Ben and I know it’s curtains to linger but we’re both still wrestling with it.

I’m really very happy just to sit inside out of the heat with my eyes closed and a wet something over my head.

But it’s gonna be curtains: Ben and I do the ‘I will if you will’ dance which has us both heading out onto another big upward haul followed by and even longer drop into the valley below. Then another haul – then another drop.

Then Ambleside – and family.


Very quickly I find I can’t hold Ben without a huge effort and am forced to let him go.

I go full Dark Side while what feels like walking in the fires of Hell. I stopped sweating ages ago and now I’m just burning. I can soak my hat periodically but what I really need is something big enough to throw myself in – and despite this being The Lake District that option doesn’t exist on this section.

Just when you need a lake…


I am one very sorry, stumbling emotionally-fraught excuse for a seasoned competitor that eventually emerges into the outskirts of the town desperately craning ahead for the first sight of wife and boys at their usual spot.

Not there.


I have to ram down a sob that threatens to burst out and choke me and I almost fall.

‘S’OK – they’ll be along the street somewhere. It’s busy – maybe they couldn’t…’


Turn onto the street – it’s packed with people and cars and… NOISE.

Crane ahead – can’t see...

Not there.


‘They’ll be at the checkpoint then. S’OK…the checkpoint…’

I walk-weave between people and cars and dogs and NOISE desperately looking-craning-searching for…Charlotte – where’s Charlotte? Where…?


And then she’s there 50 yards ahead of me and control goes like that as I collapse into the nearest wall great full-body gulping sobs breaking out all over the place. And then she’s right there holding me up so I trade the wall for my wife and cry like baby all over her as our boys look on:

‘WTF, Dad??’


It ain’t over yet.

I have to walk the final 100yards to the CP through throngs of cheering people with Charlotte still having to prop me up.

Which is nice.

‘Lie down. Shade…’

‘Drags me up the steps and inside and…

Lights out.


It takes a wee while (and some fish and chips) until the paramedics are satisfied that enough of my lights are back on and the combination of race-long progressive energy depletion mixed with a nice helping of heat stroke is no longer a danger.

Unless I choose to continue.


And y’know? The prospect of a 16mile death march to the finish is just not something I could make matter enough.

Could I have done so were Charlotte and the boys not with me? We’ll never know.

They were and I called it.


For the record, Ben and Karen both finished – Karen to take 7th lady and top spot in her age group and Ben to record his first 100mile finish. Meanwhile at the sharp end on a day when 1 out of 3 starters did not finish, the course record of nearly 10 years standing was taken apart by some 40minutes.

After 5 finishes from 5 starts in this race I got to chalk up my first Did Not Finish.

Or Did Nothing Fatal.

And while I almost certainly will do something like this again, I’d really rather not experience something like this again.

Pass me that drawing board, will ya?




Race Video (6mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tT6Jd6CQ3g0




By Andy Mouncey, Jul 6 2021 12:55PM


Alright smartarse, let’s see you get out of this one.

Because I am quite literally stuck – and it’s entirely of my own doing.


I’m a few minutes into my post-race reactions and rituals the latter of which involves heading to the nearest river for a full cold water bath.

Usually a thing of unbridled pleasure after a period of physical exertion.


This is particularly needed today as I’ve just finished 24miles and 6500’ of up-down that is a brand new race in The Lake District by my chums at Ascend Events - Thirlmere Trot

It’s been a bloomin’ hot four and a half hours of race effort, and while my training has been going well my racing is somewhat rusty: The last time I pinned a number on in anger was Feb 2020 just before the curtain came down on the world as we knew it.


The result of that is that I’ve neglected some stuff on the fuel front today which has had me battling the onset of full and repeated cramp attacks in both legs for the final 5miles or so of the race.

This was a real pisser as far as I was concerned ‘cos the final bit is a huge rocky plummet from 3000’ feet up on the top of Hellvelyn all the way to the finish in picturesque Grasmere in the valley below.

And I’m quite good at plummeting so my plan was to well, plummet.

Hmm.


By Andy Mouncey, May 11 2021 01:08PM

Are you still doing this silly long distance running thing? They asked.

We’ve not heard about any for a while….


That doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been any, of course – though I think my last post on a silly long distance theme was way back Feb 2020 when I had a little jaunt around Lands End The Arc of Attrition post

Before the world changed.

So you’d be forgiven if you thought that was just a phase I had to go through.

Pause.

Nah.


There has been plenty of running but not any silly long distances of note – until last week.


I’ve had a very consistent year or so of training while we’ve been in-out of semi-lockdown and inevitably have taken the opportunity to change some stuff.

It’s a boredom-samey thing and a willingness to keep poking the bear.


This has mainly involved doing more sustained running on the roads. That took some serious conditioning work to get the soft tissues ready for the battering and then 3 months on top of that before the lower leg muscles adapted enough to handle said battering without having me shuffle around for 3-5 days after a run.

Because fitness is specific.


Then back in November I got serious by starting a measured progression of two key sessions. One is an old favourite – well, favourite is a bit strong but it bloody works – that I used to do on the trails and am now doing a road version, while the other is new to me and is brutally simple: Run at a sustained best possible pace – usually without taking on anything to eat-drink – for way longer than you think you can on your tod.

What that means is as fast as you can for the target duration holding everything else as consistent as possible i.e. no slowing down.

It’s quite a balancing act.

My goal is to do 3 hours – and be OK the day after.


Six months later I’m up to 2 hours 15mins which I’ve now hit twice.

And been perfectly fine the day after.

While this means nothing to anyone else except me, my 54 year young self is quietly chuffed.


So it appears my (road) running is fine – but how did that translate to this silly long distance usually over some mountains stuff? With Lakeland 100mile race www.lakleland100.com now 3 months away I figured I really ought to find out.


‘How would you feel if I had a trot round the Lakeland 100 route?’ I said to Mrs Mouncey.

(The race is pretty much a lap of the Lake District).

Raised eyebrows aside she went with it along with a few safeguarding must-dos if husband insisted on doing the whole thing solo (sigh).

Our boys didn’t bat an eyelid: Normal dad-shit as far as they were concerned.


Which was why I found myself walking away from car – yes, I know I locked it but I’m just going back to check, OK? - at the race start point in Coniston southern Lake District at 11am on a glorious and chilly morning. I’ve done this race five times now: The inaugural year 2008 when 30 people started and only 11 of us finished,


then 2010,


2011,


2018,


So it’s a bit like pulling on a favourite jumper that’s been hiding at the back of the drawer: It still fits, it still makes me smile – just some bits chafe a little after all this time…

I’ve decided that today is a day to practice the skills of FLOATY – focus on what you want, and all that. I’ve no idea what my climbing will be like, and while my descending has always been good I’ve not exactly being hammering down mountains recently – and the bit in the middle?

I dunno.

So the goal is economy of energy for as long as possible and how that plays out will be how that plays out.

But I’ll know where I’m at from a proper field test: No guessing, no positive spin and no bullshit.


As I drop into Wasdale around the 20mile point being battered by a hailstorm some things have become apparent:

My climbing’s OK even if there’s no real power.

My descending is smooth enough.

And the big revelation is that the diet of sustained road running is translating very well to chugging along very easily on anything remotely runnable.

Which is nice.


Apart from texting Charlotte the race checkpoint name as I pass, (Agreed Safeguarding Rule 1a) I keep my phone off and watch hidden. At 26miles I do my only café stop* for tea, cake and sausage roll – I could race all day on tea I’m sure – and then head up to the final (by now chilly) high point and my first view of the northern Lake District town of Keswick in the distance and the race 35mile point. Sometime later I’m trotting down the high street having come to a number of conclusions:

I am under-prepared to go through what will be a very cold night solo in remote terrain – and while I have emergency/bivvy gear I am just not prepared to run the risk.

Aspiration to do the full distance was clearly just the beer talking.

With some sneaky adjusting I can still do half this thing, and half distance I’ll take as the goal here is to see where I’m at re race readiness – and I have most of that answer already.


The sneaky adjusting takes the form of a taxi ride south to Ambleside: I’d missed the last bus and on reflection was very happy to put a considerable fare into a local taxi driver whose income had all but disappeared in the last year. Pick up the race route here and follow it back to the start/finish in Consiton.


So that’s what I do arriving back at the car around midnight and 50miles to the good.

And just because it would be rude not to, a few days later I head back out and do the other 50miles I didn’t do first time around.

This time not a taxi in sight – just plenty of snow, sleet, hail and rain.

Which was nice.



Everything’s Relative

Someone will always trump your stuff – and I’m pretty certain that on my first Friday out I saw in the distance one Sabrina Vergee and support runners out on their little run round the Lakeland fells https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Q-VDvYqzXPA

Well, make that 214 summits to bag in around continuous 6 days if you want to set a record. At least, I know of no other reason that a small group of runners would be following a pathless fence-line if not to avoid unnecessary height-gain while linking summits as efficiently as possible. And the time and place fit with what I knew of her schedule.


Anyway, what’s remarkable is not so much as what she was doing this week and what she has racked up over the last year (see video in the link below). A year that started with setting the third fastest time for this Round - and then declaring that she wasn’t happy with that and her mark shouldn’t stand as due to leg problems she had to lean on some folks coming down the last few mountains.

Holy shit! Went quite a few people.

Then a few short months later she was back for another shot.

Holy shit! Went quite a lot more people.

And with good reason: Take a peek at this:

https://www.grough.co.uk/magazine/2021/05/03/sabrina-verjee-still-ahead-of-wainwrights-schedule-after-brutal-day-of-blizzards



*Comparing like with like of long self-propelled exploits is tricky so in an effort to do just that – essential when records are at stake - The Fellrunners Association have laid down some definitions.

Solo Self-Supported

You may have as much support as you can find along the way but not from any pre-arranged people helping you. This can range from caching supplies in advance, purchasing supplies along the way, to finding or begging for food or water.


Solo Un-Supported

Carry all you need from start to finish except water from natural sources. Public taps along the route are acceptable. Do not collect anything from a cache or leave anything for collection. Do not meet anyone on route. Accept no external support of any kind nor any contact where moral support is offered.


(Which means that the one brief café stop on each of my trips took me from SUS to SSS – though I suspect the taxi break during my first puts that one into a special category of its own that sounds a lot like Derision).









By Andy Mouncey, Apr 27 2021 04:19PM

I had a little cry the night I finished the work at HMP Brinsford.

Which was a bit of a shock.

Mrs Mouncey and I went for a walkie-talkie when I got home that evening and, well…

Waterworks.

She took it rather well, I thought.




Here’s the thing: In the 8 years I’ve been in this kinda work nothing else has provoked a reaction like this – which begs the question why this and why now?


Not an insignificant number of easy biking and running hours later – this also doubles as my Making Sense of Stuff time - I arrived at some conclusions. Then I tested those conclusions with someone who knows me enough, has been in this line of work for way longer than me and who, I believe, really knows his onions.


Most of my group of young men were in their early 20’s but there were also a good number who were 19. My eldest son is 14 – which is only 5 short years away.

And as a parent that’s way too close for comfort.


Now I have done work with this age group previously but that has been with ‘at risk of offending’ groups in the community: This is a first for me to work with this group in a custodial setting.

And here’s the thing about a custodial setting in the Spring of 2021: While covid restrictions ease in society in general prisons lag behind. For the last year there has been no education, no work-based training, no organised physical activity – and no family visits.


There are reasons for this and I’ve written about those reasons previously - and the fact remains: My group have been mainly in their cells with very little to do and very few people to do it with – and a few were still experiencing the most basic version of that regime.

And to my eyes they’re still just kids – just with a very particular model of the world.


Not exactly master criminals either: Most are – to my mind anyway – doing time because they couldn’t control their emotions. They are in prison because of a crime of the heart in a moment in time – or two moments in the case of a second offence.


I’d argue that’s not a crime of the head – it’s not thought-through and it’s not organised.

You want to know what organised crime looks like? Try this:

Lance Armstrong at the Tour de France.


This was a deception that was meticulously planned and executed over multiple years that spanned continents, cost millions, emmeshed thousands and left broken people and livelihoods in its wake - oh, and all covered by the elaborate smokescreen that was his charity work.

Where is he now?

Still got his house and family and some people are still giving him employment.

What’s he lost? Seven yellow T-shirts, a few sponsors and not that much of his fortune.

(He also settled a few things out of court, a few folks quite reasonably took their awards back and he got stuck with a life ban - but seems to have fared considerably better than your average 19year old at HMP Brinsford).

Though I do very occasionally wonder what his kids think of it all.


So yeah: That’s organised crime.

And a justice gap the size of the Grand Canyon.


That’s just a particularly high-profile example from the world of sport. Other examples from business and politics are also available. If you really want to depress yourself you can come up with your own list – though I figure you’ll throw in the towel in disgust long before you run out of examples.


And that, right there is what I think got me: I experienced what I experienced with my group AND I’m aware of this other sh**.


They’re just kids.

Not a million miles away from mine.

It’s not fair – and it’s not right.





By Andy Mouncey, Apr 1 2021 11:54AM

This work at HMP/YOI Brinsford is funded by HM Prison & Probation Service through Clinks Covid19 Winter Support Grant Programme.



We’ve just set a bomb off.

Or opened a sack of boiling feral tomcats and released them into a confined space.

Take your pick.


That this is part of the plan is no comfort to me at all – it’s just that no plan survives first contact with reality and in this case reality has smacked me in the kisser as well.


One week later and it’s Day 3 & 4 at HMP Brinsford and the plan said we grow the first group of 4 and add another 6-8. So we took nominations and made final selections and brought a new 8 to meet our original 4…our original 4 all of whom if not exactly on the same page as me with this work are at least looking at the same book – whereas it looks and sounds like our new 8 would take those pages make a tube out of ‘em and use that to smoke the contents of a teabag.

(Sigh).


It actually started well because we started at pace with some fizz outside (physical activity) that had them moving and doing and grunting and gasping and grinning. But as soon as I loosened the leash and we moved onto some of the essential head stuff the cohesion and compliance slipped.


I’d positioned our original 4 as informal mentors to the new lads – we’ll be looking to you to look after ‘em - but they weren’t stepping up and I watched in growing despair as peer pressure/expectations worked its insidious sabotage into our carefully constructed group dynamics from last week.

Bollocks.


Somehow we vaguely kept it on track-ish through the morning but it was guerrilla warfare the whole way. My staff support G had a face like thunder and was clearly plotting ritualistic slaughter as retribution. You could say he had cause: Many of these lads had asked – politely and repeatedly he’d told me – to join us. And he’d done the grunt work for them so it could happen.

So he was pissed.


I’d lost it twice through the morning and said things I just shouldn’t have said.

That I knew it right away, did an internal cringe and did my best to salvage was of no comfort: I’d f**ked up and that was bad.

So much for being cool under fire then.

This Is Not The Way.


Lunchtime was an Emergency Summit: We had a frank exchange and changed some stuff. And thank goodness it worked: By the end of the day we finished with the same number of lads that we’d started with – and retaining is a big win with this stuff – and we were all in a better place than we were a few hours earlier.

And we knew that ‘cos we’d checked and asked.


‘Must’ve been quite a day though because even after a chance to decompress during my two and a quarter hour drive home, Mrs Mouncey later informed me that Husband returned wearing a nice shade of Haunted and Hunted.

Which she normally sees at the end of a particularly traumatic 100 mile race.


Other Eyecatchers

Pants & Pockets

Hands are typically carried one of two places: Down the front of pants or in the pockets. This applies even when trying The Floor Is Lava for the first time (see below). If pockets it’s probably not to play with personal parts but to facilitate…


Vaping

F**kin’ vaping.

All but two of my 12 vape and most of them seem compelled to partake almost unconsciously on average every 77 seconds. They’ve all mastered the Reach & Draw action to the point that it’s almost unseen by the casual observer. Unfortunately (for them) that doesn’t apply to the smoke. Now we did have this with our first 4 but to nowhere near this level – it’s like there’s some sort of herd mechanism accelerant at work.


I’ve chosen to give them the chance to manage it by having periodic breaks – I got them down to 4mins from a starting ask of 15 (go me) - making a written agreement with me (they sign) and then burpees in front of the group when they break it.

Except they’ve all given the finger to that and just giggle and take the burpees and the point-scoring among their peers that comes with it.

It’s an absolute bastard nightmare and a source of total and utter sabotage to the work.


One of the staff remarked to me: ‘If this was a few years ago they’d be on cigarettes and that would be way worse.’ Except I don’t buy that because there’s more faff factor with a fag and a lighter and part of the problem with vaping is it’s too damn easy to do: One item and one action.

Almost as if it were designed that way…


I’m not generally given to violent urges but this makes me want to scream and smash things. I figure there’s got to be some rules about this somewhere but I’m f**ked if I can figure out what they are.


Time

Most are preoccupied with Time:

What time is it?

What time will it finish?

What time is lunch?

Repeatedly.


Now logically I know that at least part of the reason for this is that their lives are normally driven by structure and requirements to be escorted to a certain place for a certain time. And Certainty is a currency in here: The familiarity of something happening at a certain time is something to grab on to.

But I’m like:

Really?

You have other places to be at the moment?

Other more pressing engagements?

A packed social calendar?

???????!!!


My self-indulgent verging on incredulous monologue rarely gets more than an embarrassed shrug. My Level Two repost then kicks in:

‘It’s time to be here with me and everyone else enjoying this thing right here right now: That’s what time it is.’

‘Fairly sure that’s not the response they’re looking for either.


The Floor Is Lava

Is a raging hit with a 5 star review.

Who knew?

We set up an inside course, an outside course, did team and solo challenges and everyone threw themselves into it and even had hands out of pockets by their second lap.

I thanked all gods great and small that I’d perfected my TFIL methodologies with our boys as part of lockdown PE – so I wasn’t short of ideas.

Nobody broke anything either – utterly remarkable: ‘You ever seen a pocket rhinoceros do TFIL?


Everyone Gives A Shit

There were moments that afternoon when we were given a glimpse of the real inside.

Guerrilla warfare went on pause and the real stuff came out.

I’d wanted to test some of the headlines about life inside during lockdown and to check our Big 4 issues from last week and so had been building up to questions along the lines of:

What do you do all day if you’re in cell for 22-23 hours?*

(Watch TV, use the phone, write letters**)

How do you cope?

(Get my head down, get on with it – it’s not that bad***)


Which brought us round to those people who choose to cope by fronting it out – the ‘I Don’t Give A Sh**’ brigade – not just during lockdown but in prison in general.


And suddenly right there all my 12 were on the same page – their replies showing maturity beyond their years and the hurt of experience:

That’s bollocks: Everyone hurts – everyone gives a sh**’


It took me a few days reflection to realise that I’d been wrestling with my own inner conflict that day too – and the nature of my day was therefore at least in part due to bits of my inside popping up on my outside.


Without knowing any more detail than I know already through my work, I know that being in prison during a pandemic is – for want of a better phrase - a pretty shitty experience.

And it’s still going on for my 12 and it ain’t over either.

So I just wanted to be kind.

To cut ‘em some slack.

Because everybody hurts.




*A handful of my group were

**This is less common that you might think as many struggle to read and write fluently

***Which begs the question ‘Compared to what?’





Timeline RFYL CIC

So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.

This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk


Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company formed. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019 March: Second ‘Proof Of Concept’ pilot delivered HMP Stafford (unpaid)

2019 June: First business sponsorship (v surprised smiley face) from Kebbell Homes

2019 Dec: First paid work secured HMP Wymott, Lancs.

2020 March: Covid19 pandemic hits - work stops as prisons enter lockdown

2020 June: Start an online service supporting prison governors as prisons stay shut

2021 January: First funding awarded for Covid19 response work HMP Brinsford


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 37

Funding Bids Successful: 1

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2

Times My Wife Has Really Meant It: 1



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