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By Andy Mouncey, Feb 14 2020 01:55PM

Breaking In

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)

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


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 28

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




Deeper In

The second time at HMP Wymott Theraputic Community delivering my 24 hour-2.5 day program.


Some things are the same and some are very different. Here's the different:

I have 3 members of staff taking full part alongside the 8 men, and I have two of my Graduates from the first December group with me a peer mentors.


Oh yeah – and expectations all round are higher and more people are watching. Some of the watchers are excited and some are nervous and even fearful: Drawbridges are going up and barriers are coming down – not everyone likes to feel the wind of change on their cheek…

Some headlines:


Cutting It Fine

I belated realize we’ve tipped into zealot territory on the Eating For Health & Energy front this time and it's about to repeat on us. On Day 1 with the first group we'd deliberately fed ‘em the usual carb, sugar heavy processed meat prison scoff – then switched to way more healthy options for Day 2 & 3 as we wanted to get evidence of the effect of the contrast. Sure enough folks complained of nausea and sickness on Day 1 and left much of it: Day 2 & 3 it all got eaten and folks were aching in most places but smiling – mostly.

Well no s**t, Sherlock.


This time we've gone for healthy options from the start.

But right now in front of me slumped on the corridor floor on the afternoon of Day 2, J is rapidly winding himself up to a full ballistic toddler tantrum at the prospect of (just) salad sandwiches and fruit for tea.


Mistake No 1: I tell him to focus on the task now – we do tea later.

(No – can't do that ‘cos Tea is way more important than Task).

Mistake No 2: I ain't budging and I have no time for this toddler tantrum boll**ks.

(I need to make time for this TT boll**ks ‘cos it's actually a cry for help from someone in a world where gratification through food is one of the few things to look forward to – and right now I'm screwing with his reward system).


The big picture is of course that we've been working them all hard and for way longer than they're used to while taking them on a physical-mental-emotional roller coaster. All that takes energy and the simple truth is that they are all on their chinstraps and they all need more calories. I don't clock this till later – wrapped up as I am in my own pissing contest with J – but another member of staff with me does and swiftly gets Catering to bulk up the tea on offer.


Then one bright spark has another brainwave and a toaster with copious supplies of sliced bread and jam mysteriously appears as well.

Peace is restored.


Replaying it all in the car on the way home that night I belated realize it's a perfect replica of me in depleted state post big training run stumbling incoherently around the kitchen in a frenzied search for ready calories while the rest of the family run for cover.

Muppet.

But it's one of the biggest lessons of this second round: The consistently healthy menu and copious amounts of water really work – we just need way more of it!



'…Take The T-Shirt & Piss Off!'

Midway through Day 2 and we’re checking in with them re Reality v Expectations:

What are you thinking?

How are you feeling?

And your expectations for the gym triathlon contest tomorrow?

We go round the group and everyone speaks out loud while I transcribe what I hear:


I did better than I thought – I feel better in myself.

I've enjoyed the team spirit

I haven't spit my dummy out and I'm pleased about that.'

I want to get it done. I'm sore but I'm further than I thought. I thought I'd quit – I haven't.

I'm more motivated.

Everyone's won. Everyone will do it.

Great to see everyone grow in confidence.

I'm really tired – but I've done better than I thought. My goal for the race is sub 25minutes.

I've enjoyed seeing everyone stick with it.

I've noticed how much you've supported each other. Be proud! (Staff)

I've noticed the way we are all cheering each other on whether we are staff or men. It's nice to get to know you all better and great to see you support the strugglers (Staff).


Finally M in broad Scouse chips in with:

‘I thought it'd be easy and one big laugh and I'd get my T shirt and f***-off!

Peals of laughter at that one – then he speaks from the heart:

It's been stressful. I've had to get serious – I didn't think it'd be this hard.'


Lifting Up v Bringing Down

This group arrived fired up. That's in direct contrast to the first group who arrived nervous and somewhat subdued – as you would when you have no real clue what you've been signed up for except 10 hours – 10 hours!! - in the company of some orange-clad idiot. So I spent most of the first day bring them along and lifting them up.


The difference this time is that word is well and truly out and everyone can see and hear the transformation in those first eight men. I've seen and heard it myself: I went back in over Xmas and again a couple of weeks later to be repeatedly bombarded with two questions:

When's the next one?

Can I sign up?


So this second group arrived with the force of a small hurricane. That has meant harnessing the force in the desired direction of travel and making sure they don't blow out by lunchtime on the first day.

Hey – it's a nice problem to have!



Fiddling With The Furniture

We introduced a new element on the first two days: Eating For Health & Energy – ‘cos typically they don't. They eat – as it's been described to me – like a three year old and/or Fear Of Missing Out. This is a new direction for Catering as well but they're up for it and I've been impressed by the folks I've worked with from that team so far.

So we've come up with a first punt on this.


A key objective being to get clarity on what the barriers are for the men on this, what their areas of interest are on the topic and what we can do provision-wise within the confines of a prison system.

Which basically means asking them questions, having the courtesy to listen to the answers and acting on the information contained therein.

We did all that and they clearly got pissed off as all my answers started with the same two words:

‘It depends…'

Just me indulging myself by adopting full Coaching Mode and throwing it all back when they were looking for easy answers.

Welcome again to my world, boys!


Much later something was still bothering me about the session – something wasn't right but what was it? Then at 3am the following morning the Ideas Fairy came calling:

Ahhhhhhh…..


It was all the bullshit questions they were asking:

How much protein should I eat?

Can I get more protein?

What about sports drinks?

Is soya milk better than normal milk?

I'm intolerant this / intolerant that – why can't I get my special foods?

I'm a vegan…

I'm training every day and (guess what?) I need more protein…


In other words the problems/barriers weren't with them they were with

Other people.

The system.

The limited menu.

Right…..


The solution – to borrow from an often-derided former Prime Minister:

Education.

Education.

Education.

And busting a whole load of food myths into the bargain.


But first they needed to wake up and I need to get something off my chest.

One of the advantages of running your own show is that you can drive a bus through a planned session and no-one will object. So I strapped in and drove in full crash-test mode:


‘There was something bothering me about the session yesterday and it's taken me a while to figure it out but I've figured it out and here it is. Now, just to make sure you're paying attention and get the message I'm going to be brutal and use simple colorful language. I'm aware that this is not how you do things here normally'– a nod to the Theraputic Community staff who I figure are probably having kittens about now – ‘but you need to really get this s**t in language you understand so here goes.'

(I start drawing helpful big diagram on the flipchart around a smiley face)


‘Our body needs 3 things to function:

Fizz (physical activity)

Water

Breakfast

Other stuff is relevant but I'm keeping it simple and just using these three.'

(I nod and look ‘em all in the eye and make sure I get nods in return. It's gone very quiet…)


‘Our mind needs 3 things:

Purpose

Challenge

Team-ship

Stuff that you’ve all been experiencing for the last 2 days to the max – so much so that you'd all now miss ‘em if they weren't there – right?'

(Nodding)


‘Right. So all that boll**ks about protein and soya milk and sports drinks yesterday…

YOU'RE JUST FIDDLING WITH THE FURNITURE WHILE THE BLOODY HOUSE BURNS DOWN!'


(Pause for dramatic effect. I'm quite pleased with my play on the 're-arranging deckchairs-sinking ship' analogy – I just figure my version is more relatable to my audience).


'Think about it this way: You go to R ‘– I nod to the staff member from Catering team –‘ and ask the sports drink question and R will say…' (I throw R the ball, point to ‘water' on the chart and pray he catches it)

'Are you drinking water? No? Come back to me when you are.'

'Or you ask R how much water do I need to drink and R will say…'

'More than you are doing right now!'


It's still deathly quiet but I can see I have them all which is great ‘cos I'm in full flow now.

'You ask R the protein question and R will say…'

'Are you eating breakfast? No? Come back to me when you are and we'll talk about protein.'


Do the stuff you need to do first – breakfast, water, fizz – and then you earn the right to do the stuff you want to do. ‘Cos if you don't you're just fiddling around the edges making excuses WHILE YOUR F**KIN' HOUSE BURNS DOWN AROUND YOU!!!!'


Big breath. No-one punches me. No-one walks out. Everyone's still looking.


‘Right. Rant over. Let's go out and f**kin'play.'



Gatehouse Goodbye

It's all over and I'm heading out through the main gate and I check in my credentials with the duty staff.

'Oh - you're the guy who's been doing that fitness program aren't you…we just had R come through here raving about it.'

A pause.

'Is it compulsory?'

I can't resist an evil grin:

'Not yet!'



By Andy Mouncey, Feb 5 2020 12:43PM


The Arc Of Attrition 100miles of rocks and mud around Lands End on the SW Coastal Path


Mile 81 and I’m blowing out of my arse trying to stay with Leanne. We hooked up about a couple of hours into the race and an easy companionship has evolved without either of us saying much. I’d started at the back and caught her as I worked my way up the field noticing how well she moved over the treacherous terrain in contrast to most of the blokes doing Bambi impressions around her. Then I heard her periodically behind me say something as we both passed another bloke and then it was just us in some space…


As I’d set a goal around hooking up with someone of like mind this time it would seem that Brain had settled on this one as my chum of choice.

I was to learn later that she sure had some race pedigree.


She was also strong out of the checkpoints and on both previous occasions at around 25 and 56miles I learned that if I could just hang with her for the first hour or so we’d settle down again.


Now it was mid morning of the second day and we’d just left the CP at St Ives heading north up the Cornwall coast after starting 12 noon the previous day some 80 seriously gnarly miles ago behind us and east round the SW coast from Coverack near the famous Lizard Point.


Six hours of daylight then 12 under torchlight as we rounded Lands End looking for daybreak as close to St Ives as we could get. In contrast to the grim weather of the previous afternoon and first part of the night to LE, this morning has dawned sunny and clear – though the wind is still strong.


We had a brisk stop and I did not eat most of the food I ordered – suddenly not hungry and nothing looked appealing. I’m aware this is not good – but more pressing is that Leanne is now almost surging ahead and for the first time our elastic is stretching. Someone told her at the CP she was now 3rd lady and clearly she wants to keep that podium spot. I grit my teeth, utter a few choice words and work to keep the rising discomfort levels the right side of seriously unpleasant.

It’s alright, she’ll settle down – just hang in for a bit longer…

Repeat: It’s alright…


But after 80 miles and around 23 hours it feels like I’m at sprint-effort – even if speed over the ground is somewhat lacking. The good news is that it’s pulling me along – the bad news is that I’m heading into a hole that the ‘don’t want to eat’ thing has opened up for me to fall in to.


That’s all to come. For now I’m thankful that Leanne takes some walking breaks before heading off again but it’s a game of chase-close-chase again.

Some f***in’ game.


This goes on for 5miles and includes a lengthy detour inland on road to cross an estuary – a big shock to the legs after lots of up-down rocky-muddy miles. Then by way of contrast we hit sand dunes – a section called the Dunes Of Doom on the race info. The clue’s in the title and it certainly is for me as it’s here that the elastic snaps and I fall almost thankfully into the hole that has been waiting to swallow me for the last hour or so. And while Leanne will slow a lot over these final few hours it’s way less that I will and she gets to keep her podium slot. Chapeau!

Meanwhile the fun has really started behind her…


I shuffle through the dunes thankful that at least it’s daylight and I can follow footprints – this section would be a maze at night and cause for a serious sense of humor failure. A couple of miles later I emerge to be greeted by friends Steve, Linda & Jim and daughter Hannah who have made the trip from Exeter to see what this ultrarunning lark is all about.

Well, they’ve seen me chirpier…


I still have enough wits about me to realize I have to get some warmer gear on and try get some food down me – and smile and communicate and educate the impromptu never-been-tested support crew. Fortunately I had anticipated this and had written down a ‘Managing The Mouncey’ list in advance.

This basically boiled down to three columns:

1. Shit you DO need to do and say to me

2. Shit you DO NOT need to do and say to me

3. Shit you SHOULD NOT EVER take from me


I have around 12 miles to go and I’m well aware that it wont be pretty. I’ve managed to get a banana down me and some hot juice and I’m in my get-out-of-jail Montane Hydrogen top brought along for just this scenario: I may be somewhat short of full operational capacity – but at least I am now Mr Toasty.


Friends Reunited say they’ll meet me about 3 miles on where the road hugs the path so as they disappear down the road I disappear into my hood. I bully myself out of shuffle mode into something resembling meaningful forward motion to go up this steady climb ahead of me round this next headland before it levels out for a while.

I try very hard to break into a jog using some of the gentle downhills as momentum but it just ain’t happening.

Just when you need some f***in’ poles…


It’s a bit more fundamental than that - though poles would help at this point as they’d take the pressure of my feet and that would enable me to move easier and faster – in theory anyway.


(Later I’d realize that three factors conspired to derail me in this final quarter of the race: I’d made two poor decisions and experienced one systems problem.

Decision Two was the choice to chase Leanne.

Systems Problem One was the loss of any desire to eat.

Decision One was the choice to swap shoes and socks at half way from newer trainers that drained well and thin socks to older shoes that were less porous and socks that were thicker. This retained moisture and gunk and this accelerated the onset of mascerated feet where the soles become saturated and it feels like you are running on broken glass.


I’d suffered before and that had forced me to make changes to how I looked after my feet during a race. Well, I’d got that right in the first half but blown it after Lands End. What had made it worse was the unexpectedly warm sunny second day: I could feel my feet burning and tenderizing as I chased Leanne out of St Ives to the point – about now – where the prospect of any extra pressure being put through my points of contact didn’t really bear thinking about.

Oh for a nice soft golf course to finish off…


There was still plenty of mud in prospect but golf courses were conspicuous by their absence. But 3 miles on and I’m still moving which in the grand scheme of things is just fine.

Friends Reunited reunite and I emerge from my hood without stopping to be fed tea, half a biscuit and a humbug. Linda elects to stay with me and I’m happy to have her along even if I’m not exactly Mr Chatty. It’s pancake flat for a while and I should be running but… (sigh).


For the penultimate time we hit a village at the bottom of a cove. Portreath means around 4 miles to go but suddenly I have a wobble and need to stop. I can feel myself going down which is not good news. Fortunately we’re on a slight slope so in true old man style I lower myself to the deck and lie down with my head down the slope - so my feet are higher - and lie there for a minute breathing like a stranded fish while gravity shunts blood to my brain.

Friends Reunited appear not to be phased in the slightest so I must have covered this in my list…


Getting upright again is interesting but with help I manage it and do the girding of loins bit for what I hope will be the final time. (It isn’t).

Jim has lent me his walking poles and without them I’m not sure I’d have done this last bit without resorting to hands and knees crawl both up and down hill.


The race organisers have added two stupidly steep ascents into this bit for no other reason than I can see other than for our pain and their entertainment. Time stretches on and on and I almost run out of rude words. Linda is stoic either ahead of behind me as I totter, crash, stumble and swear my way up, down and ever slowly onward. My goal of finishing in daylight and under 30 hours is blown by an hour and it’s all on this last bit within touching distance of the end.

The final 500 meters or so are an utter cluster-f**k to finish with:


A steep rocky climb through gorse on a path 12-18” wide marked by glow sticks.

The enthusiastic marshals at the start of this final bit do the usual positive –spin well-intentioned but ultimately meaningless final hurrah.

It’s utterly wasted on me.


I just stop, look at the climb, look back them.

One word comes to mind:

Really?

The only way I’m getting started is if Linda hoists me unceremonionally up and over the small roadside rise. Thereafter the air turns a periodic blue as I turn to the Johnny Rotten coaching model:

‘Anger Is An Ener-gee!’

I drive my poles in as though the deeper I stick ‘em the more I’m making the bastard hill hurt:

You. Have. Got. To Be. F**kin’. Kidding. Me!


Of course we get there – and while it’s not my most exuberant finish (?!) it IS a finish after what was a proper little adventure.

Which was all I really wanted, actually.


Race Video (7mins)



Flying solo early on



The finish: The ground was wobbling – I was steady as a rock…




By Andy Mouncey, Jan 27 2020 02:57PM

You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d embraced a life of sloth and gone on the pies given the derth of recent posts of the running-variety. Well, if you’re after self-indulgent LOOK AT ME! over-sharing then this is not the blog for you – though I suspect most of you figured that out pretty quick and have just hung in here with me regardless.

So…just to break the pattern of prison-based stuff and to reassure you that I am indeed still challenging the signs of aging, here IS a post about running.


There has infact, been quite a lot by my standards because this Friday I have an appointment with 100 miles of the SW Coastal path cherry-picked as the link between the start and finish of the Arc Of Attrition race.

We start around 50miles east of Lands End, head west around LE and finish around 50miles north up the coast. Big Picture navigation is this: ‘Keep the sea on the left.’


We start lunchtime so that’s a few hours daylight then lots more hours darkness then a few more hours daylight – and hopefully still finishing in that daylight. Mud and rocks are expected – and steps: LOTS of steps.


So my training has involved lots of this


This


And this



This time I’ve stayed close to home and concentrated on a handful of key routes on which I have build duration by doing relatively small distances over and over and over again.

Mostly in crappy weather.

Usually with a hefty proportion of darkness.

And all with a delightful quantity of steps.


No speedwork as such – rare for me – just a 6 week block of very steady run-hike volume. It’s fit well with the (high-intensity) prison work as most of my creative planning/making sense of that work has been done while grinding grooves in the ground under the light of a head torch.


This wasn’t Plan A but Plan A evolved in to this very quickly as it became apparent that (a) my calves weren’t ready for a beasting and (b) my head and heart was firmly in my work and I just didn’t have the energy beans to go deep in training as well.

Still, I needed something for me and this was to be it – just needed to rearrange the pieces while keeping the game the same.


All of which has meant that I’m almost in holiday-mode for this one – I view it as a somewhat perverse reward for the recent prison success. How that will translate over the 24 hours or so of coastal miles is anyone’s guess – but that’s part of why we play the game!





By Andy Mouncey, Dec 20 2019 03:46PM

Breaking In

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)

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


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 27

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



Beware! Transformations In Progress

December 9th and I have 24 hours over three days with 10 men at HMP Wymott as follows:

Day 1: 10 hours

Day 2: 8 hours

Day 3: 6 hours

One day out of a lifetime.

One day to shine a light.


I’d pushed the prison to make this happen before Xmas. It was more rushed than they wanted but we had the essentials covered and I figured I’d sold my strategy:

Let’s do it once so we can figure out how we’re going to do it. Then we can do it.


And all this in a world that is traditionally conservative with a small ‘c’ and about as risk adverse as you can get.

Clearly I’m getting quite good at this convincing lark…


In my defense I’d tried very hard to keep it simple:

‘How long?’ they’d asked.

‘Two and a half days’ I replied.

Thank god for the advocacy of Craig from HMP Stafford.


And to be perfectly honest I was heartily sick of waiting.

Just for good measure I’d added a Health Warning:

I’m Here To Shake The Tree – So Don’t Complain When You Get Hit By Falling Fruit




Despite all that I was certain of three things:

Not everyone believed me.

Not everyone was ready.

We were going to need some hard hats.


8.07am Day 1 and eight men have arrived – realization kicking in that yes, the idiot in the orange shirt wasn’t kidding and he is here and we really are going to start at 8am.

Without any breakfast.


8.10 and we’re out on the yard and I get word that the other two have arrived.

Sorry – we said 8am. Please say that I hope they will re-apply for next time…

And then we were 8.


Some Highlights

MELON

Breakfast on Day 3 and they’re all tucking into a slice of melon.

All of them.

WTF??


Catering and I had hatched a cunning plan: We’d deliberately fed them the normal prison bland stodge on the first day heavy in processed carbs, refined sugars and somewhat lacking in flavor. (G had complained of feeling sick in the afternoon and I bet he wasn’t the only one).


Day 2 and we changed the menu to more choices consistent with good health and energy and more bottles of water than I suspect they’d ever seen. I gave them their own personal water bottle and we sat back to watch the reactions.

Nobody bitched.

Everyone drank.

Smiles broke out.

And on the final day they’re tucking into frickin’ melon??


KNEES

Day 1 and I’m shocked at how many struggle to straighten their legs. Then I remember:

‘What do you do for most of a normal day?’ I’d asked.

‘Sit on our arses’ came the reply.

So bent knees are normal and OK – until you’re out with me on the exercise yard.


One quick A-B-C anatomy class later and I figure we need yet another competition to add to all the other competitions I’m throwing at them.

So on Day 2 we have ‘Last Man Standing’ – which after a false first start is amended to Last Man (Free)Standing to cut out the sneaky leaning against the wall. Very simple: Stay standing through everything we do – stationary cycling and rowing excepted – and a strict time limit on any Number 2 toilet moments.


The first one to drop comes at 70 minutes – which is bloody amazing actually – with the winner holding our for 4 hours and earning the chocolate cake prize. Much fun was had by me casting temptation in their path in the form of comfy chairs and blissful being seated sound effects. You had to be there…




RULES

We had some – they made ‘em – and we wrote ‘em up in big shiny writing.

Then on the morning of Day 2 I hear this among the group chat:

‘J’s sold his bottle’.

The water bottle that I gave him for this program. Well, we have Rules about property…

I gather them to me:

‘Gentlemen: You have 30 seconds to select two people to represent the group to talk to me and Mike and help us resolve and issue that has just happened.’


Representatives chosen, issue shared, outcome and process agreed.

Process starts.

J storms out.

J retrieved.

J wobbles.

J stays – and everyone is reminded of the following:

When you set rules some people will test that you’re serious – and keep testing. That’s normal: Your job is to pass those tests.


WOW

There were lots of ‘wow’ but here’s one that I really did not expect.

Day 1 and 2 and I notice that people were having a sneaky vape here and there.

On a drug rehab unit?

Really?

So I do the innocent curiosity bit and ask…and get an answer along the lines of ‘it’s another one of those low level running battle things…’

Okaayyyy.


Heading for teatime on Day 2 and we’ve just spent two hours sweating all over the gym.

The lads gather me in telling me they have an announcement to make:

‘We’re going to stop vaping. We know it’s sabotaging everything else we’re doing – ‘ (my eyes widen at the mention of the Support v Sabotage session I’d closed with yesterday) – ‘and we’re sorry and we’ve all agreed to stop.’


I look sideways at Mike and he looks at me. We’ve just been having a conversation on this very subject – and I suspect we both share the same unspoken thought:

F**kin’ Hell!


CLOSING

The final half day is a gym-based triathlon challenge that they all complete – peer support from a shared challenging experience is truly a wonderful thing - followed by a celebratory meal, awards including funky T-shirts for all, verbal testimonies and personal commitments going forward.


My closing statement had been inspired by a conversation with Clinks CEO Anne Fox a few weeks earlier www.clinks.org.uk with my brain very helpfully presenting me with the final wording at 3am that morning:




‘I have no idea what it feels like to be where you are and I hope to god I never do.

I hope that these 24 hours we have shared together have shown you that even in the dark places we have choices and options.

Choose to be a light in the darkness, gentlemen – for yourself and others: And always wear your T shirt.’




By Andy Mouncey, Dec 9 2019 01:30PM

Breaking In

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)

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


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 27

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


Wymott Expects

It starts as I am escorted from the prison gate to the self-enclosed unit that is the Theraputic Centre inside HMP Wymott.

Wymott is a ‘C’ class of prison – so fairly low level of security – with around 1100 men serving time across the full range of categories. The TC is a 70-bed building housing men 24-7 who are in recovery from addiction and have committed to be so.


Whatever you think of the levels of drug use/abuse in society at large the problem is way worse in prisons for lots of reasons – one of which is the removal of detection-treatment resources as part of the so-called austerity drive of the last decade. We’ve also had the rapid rise in use of new ‘legal highs.’ All this has meant more people inside behaving out of control and less resources to deal with that. This has led to more violence with staff and inmates on the receiving end and yet more sticking plaster solutions as our political leaders run scared from the braying masses.

You could say there is a need.


The TC is something of an island amidst this storm – it has some of it’s own rules and rituals - and it’s where I will be working from next month.

Except some of the men clearly think I start today.


I pick up the odd greeting and comment as I get closer from the small groups on fresh air time. I return these automatically making sure I do eye contact…This is something I’ve worked hard on from the early days: Being proactive with a greeting and eye contact even when I was having kittens inside. It matters...but it still doesn’t register that I’m being greeted by people who seem to know (of) me


Through the door and more of the same – this time very warmly by three members of staff including…

‘This is Mike, Andy – he’ll be with you for the program…’ I register the smile and handshake and the fact that this means I will now have two members of the team with me for the duration – the first being Fi who has been designated Point for this pilot and has met me at the gate today.

She’s also clearly been doing some groundwork.


Fi: ‘We’ve selected the men in buddy pairs as we discussed ‘– (we had) – ‘and we’ve been talking about it quite a lot. They’re really keen to get started’ - she throws me a grin – ‘ as you can see!’

No shit. Which either means she’s done a helluva selling job or they’re just really bored…

As we work our way through the TC the greetings and questions keep coming which is lovely and suprising and…

Not what I asked for or anticipated today.


‘Do you want to meet the men?’ asked Fi when we were discussing today.

‘No.’ I’d said. ‘This is about meeting the key staff, doing the hearts and minds bit and casing the joint. What I learn (today) will inform what I say when I met the men – and when I do meet ‘em I want it to be about them.’

Hmm. Might not be able to hold that line the way this is going…and Fi gives me a nudge:

‘You might want to think about saying a few words…’


Yeah, I might.

Before that though there is the small matter in pitching this thing to key members of staff from across the prison – and while I know Fi has been warming ‘em up this is still crucial First Contact.

I take a deep breath and do what I’ve rehearsed recalling that time-honored advice from HMP Stafford:

‘Just don’t be shit, OK?’

It also helps that Craig from HMP Stafford came up to Wymott with me last month to meet some senior staff and to vouch for what we did:

‘It works, this is how – and you need it’ he’d said.

And here we are.


Over the years I’ve got way better at this bit so now there’s no selling at all. I lay out where we could go and let them figure out a ‘how’ that would work here. An hour and change later and I find myself sitting back in almost wonder as the pieces are being knit together by the people present as yours truly is almost redundant.

Well, almost.

As we start to wrap up Fi catches my eye once again and I know what’s coming:

‘It would be really nice if you could say something to the lads Andy…’


Here’s what sometimes happens at home with our boys at bedtime: They will think of a question to ask Mum or Dad that means they HAVE to come downstairs and take a peek round the living room door to see what the parents are watching on the telly. Oh, and then forget the question.


Well, it’s been a bit like that this afternoon: We’ve had periodic interruptions for seemingly innocuous reasons from folks who are clearly desperate to join the party. And now almost as if by magic as we wind up our session the lads who are due to be Group One have infiltrated the room seemingly by osmosis and are all on the spare chairs looking up at me expectedly.

I look at Fi.

Fi looks at me.

I look at the lads.


Now at this point in the film the tumbleweed blows past to the mournful sound of a tolling bell. Or I remember that if I can’t pull a Hearts & Minds bit out of the hat at a moment notice by now I really need to find a new vocation. So I take a breath, go inside and trust that I can take them where they need to go.


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