Pain is temporary

Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.

Lance Armstrong’s is my favourite take on an old quote, encapsulated by today’s New York City Marathon. Congratulations to Edison Peña who overcame adversity and completed it in less than 6 hours – a true inspiration to many.

Meanwhile, another running legend, Haile Gebrselassie, who said earlier this week “Why should I retire? Why should I say I will retire in three or four years? You retire the very moment you utter those words … I still think about doing more” appears to have spoken too soon.

Which brings me onto another quote: think before you speak.

Update 15th November 2010. Thankfully, Haile Gebrselassie appears to have changed his mind – opting to run the Tokyo Marathon in February 2011.

For Sale

Although this space is usually occupied by blog, I am selling my car, so please contact me if you are interested or have any questions.


VOLKSWAGEN Polo 1.2 E 55 3dr Hatchback
2005 (55 reg), 32724 miles, Red, Petrol, Manual, Power assisted steering, ABS, 3 x 3-point rear seat belts, Rear headrests, Cloth seat trim, Steering wheel rake adjustment, Radio/CD
Full service history with main VW dealer, 8 months MOT – plus service plan (covering MOT and Service) until May 2012, 6 months tax. Excellent condition, £4000.

Update 5th November 2010. It’s been sold.

Love and Hate

As a young child, I was brought up on porridge for breakfast. Particularly throughout the winter months. My Grandmother had a recipe that has remained with me as I have grown older, but everyone who has encountered the it cannot understand why I like it so much. As I have become a marathon runner, it has also become my staple pre-run breakfast. It is quick to cook and has enough in it to keep me going for hours. Yet, I struggle to find people outside of the family who appreciate it.

That is until Nigella (Lawson) recently referred to an Anna del Conté recipe for spaghetti and marmite. These links may not work for long, but or show the program and recipe respectively.

And here is the original ‘Armi’ Semel recipe:

Half a cup of porridge

A cup and a half of water (more or less according to preference of thickness)

Marmite to taste (I suggest a tablespoon)

Place all contents in a saucepan on a high temperature for about five minutes. Serve in a bowl. Eat with a spoon. Straight away. Go for a run.

Beast Beyond Belief

One student in class today was factorising quadratic equations and was struggling, so I showed him the ‘Lizzie’ method He is one of the cleverer students and appreciates that there are often different ways to solve problems. He could also see that I was largely working it out as I was going along (well, I did tell him that this was the case), but as we approached the answer, he proclaimed:

“sir, you are a beast beyond belief”

I smiled to myself. I had managed to ‘do it’ and help him but, also, I had received praise from a student. It doesn’t happen very often, but reminds me of my belief that it is not the nature of the praise that is important – more the fact that there is an acknowledgement of ‘doing good’.

Many argue that some students don’t appreciate praise. However, I believe that while it may not be cool to receive praise, particularly in front of peers, the recognition (and confirmation) is hugely appreciated – even if only in secret. I also don’t believe the ‘size’ of the praise matters. While a monetary reward acts as a carrot to pull, in the same way that a prison sentence acts as a stick to push, a simple ‘merit’ or ‘demerit’ is enough to provide confirmation of good or bad. As such, my lessons tend to be full of lots of relatively meaningless (but well intentioned) positives (credits/good comments/commendations/merits etc.) and negatives (verbal and visual warnings).

My success rate is determined by my consistency of application.

Poor response


I recently received this email from my mobile phone operator and have two problems with it. I find their apparent lack of wanting to help me by sending me to their automated online troubleshooter frustrating.

I was equally frustrated to discover their inability to correctly spell the word “response”. The email is clearly a standard templated response, arriving from an email address ““, while I presume the subject line has to be typed manually.

Poor spelling very quickly sends out negative messages and I doubt this is what was intended from the email. I have been a customer for a number of years and responses like this can quite easily turn people off.

This is war


I always find the first term (in the run up to Christmas) the most exhausting. And this seems to be exaggerated this year being at a new school. However, it is the small things that help keep me on the straight and narrow.

Like the Year 8 student who was ashamed to admit to his friends that he had a Facebook account, or the girl who wanted to start a religion called “Anya-ism” (pronounced aneurism), or the memo from the History department warning me amount the weapons my form will be bringing to school on Monday.
I love my job.

Why do we need to know this?

This tends to be a common question among students in maths classes and I try to do all I can to answer constructively and reduce the number of times it is asked. But recently, in a new teaching post, I was asked why we need to know how to estimate.

I don’t think I have ever been asked this question in relation to this topic, and it started me thinking. Personally, I think estimating is one of the most commonly used maths skills that people use – giving the ability to reason, check and quickly calculate. It is certainly a topic that, when understood and used correctly, makes life much easier.

But, more intriguingly, why was it asked?

The student struggles a little, but is in the ‘top’ set. Were they looking to test me? Were they trying to distract me? Did they want to avoid doing the work? Was it genuine? Am I over analysing? Does it matter?

My current thinking is “maybe, probably not, probably not, probably, yes (definitely) and yes (but probably only for my own pedagogical understanding)”. Although the cynic in me suspects “yes, yes, yes, no, yes, no”.

And I wonder, still I wonder…

I run marathons because they’re easy. There is lots of time to think about your strategy and make fine adjustments accordingly, and I often feel like I could go on forever at a steady pace. The distance doesn’t bother me.

So when a friend recently instigated an online discussion regarding the Wroxham 5k (the Norfolk County Championships), followed by some fighting talk from his rivals, I didn’t like the sound of it, but wanted a piece of the action. Despite maintaining a reasonable level of fitness, I hadn’t done any targeted training for a number of months but, when it became clear that some of the running club’s ‘new boys’ wanted a chance to put their recent training efforts into practice, I (reluctantly) figured I had to give it a go.

As race day approached, everyone was getting their excuses ready – with some even going so far as to spend time in hospital. The preparation for those involved was mixed, and evening races can be quite awkward to judge. What should I eat? When should I eat it? When should I stop eating? How much ‘work’ should I do during the day? Weekend races, on the other hand, are simple affairs where you just get up, have your breakfast and go; they utilise tried and tested regimes that have been perfected over time.

So as we were stuck in traffic en route to the race, the rainclouds started to gather, talking to us during our preparations and distracting us from our pre-race routine. We arrived at the race HQ soaked from the walk from the car, but had to get ready to race, so warmed up on the soggy grass track, while becoming wetter with every stride.

We were called to the start line, about 10 minutes before the start, as the rain continued, and as we became more cold and miserable, at least our minds were being taken off the task in hand. But eventually the race started. I executed my start plan perfectly – sprint to the sharp corner 30m from the line to avoid the hordes and settle in from there. That was the easy part.

I passed through 1k in 3.30 and felt surprisingly good. Doing the maths on the run would give me 17.30. I had only been expecting to sneak under 19, so I thought that I may as well continue and see how things unfolded. I went through 2k in 7.02, which was good, but when 3k approached in 10.38, I was hurting. I was now slowing and it was becoming difficult. I eyed up the runners further along the road and used them to help me. It was hard work, but I went through 4k in 14.18 and by now, my mind had focussed on sub-18. I couldn’t slow down any more, but it would have to be painful. This was worse than a marathon; much worse. There was no time to think about the effort, to be tired, or to crunch numbers. It was just a case of keeping going. And finally I crossed the line in 17.55, my third pb on the road on the bounce.

And my reward when I arrived home was to discover my cheque had been banked (confirming my entry) for the London Marathon. Roll on next Spring.