Columba livia domestica.

Since I like this to be a blog for runners and non runners I’d like you all to start this evening by imagining you’re 17. You’re all kitted out in your best outfit your mum bought you from the Topman sale (Or topshop, we don’t discriminate here) and you’ve covered yourself in your lynx Christmas box set. With £15 in your pocket you head to the swankiest club in town and you join the queue with the bankers, footballers and rappers.

That was me earlier today as I waited in line to collect my number for the Telford 10k. It was a different class.

Running has its ups and downs and today’s race ended on an up. By which I mean I stopped while going up a slight hill and conceded that whatever virus I’d be battling earlier in the week had beaten me. Frustrating but not the end of the world.

The end of the world almost came shortly after when I was sent a picture from this week’s AW which dared to compare me with the real athlete in our house. Fortunately we both agreed that the women’s race was much stronger and swiftly moved on.

So after a shaky week running wise we really needed some top class animals to compensate and fortunately we had one more week of our African correspondent Andy in position. So strap in because it’s a good one this week.

From South Africa:

A giraffe looking at some elephants:

Talk about setting the bar high. Surprisingly this shot is not from Sale water park or in fact anywhere on the Mersey valley. This is Kruger National Park and we see the tallest living terrestrial mammal looking upon the heaviest mammals. Sadly giraffes are at risk of extinction after suffering a devastating decline in numbers, with nearly 40% of giraffes lost in the last 30 years. I say we need to get ourselves out planting acacia trees as soon as possible.

A warthog:

Warthogs would make wonderful pets. They’re low maintenance as they can go without water for days, they have a varied diet and will polish off your left overs and they have a lovely, amicable temperament. They do however live in groups called sounders so if you’re considering getting a warthog make sure there’s room for two.

Greater Kudu:

The greater kudu is a woodland antelope found throughout eastern and southern Africa. This is one of the largest species of antelope and males like this one can weigh up to 280kg. You’d have to be a pretty tough lion to take this guy on.

In Sale and Telford.

Some Pigeons:

Alright, they might not be very glamorous but you’d be lost without them. Frequenting high streets up and down the country they eat bits of pasties dropped outside Greggs and they have becomes so used to humans that you can pick them up. You can keep your giraffes, South Africa. We’ve got Columba livia domestica.

Until next week. Retweet, like, share and tell your mates x

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Toothpaste Kisses

Cradle me

I’ll cradle you

I’ll win your heart

With a woop-a-woo

Pulling shapes just for your eyes

So with toothpaste kisses and lines

I’ll be yours and you’ll be mine.

From the green jacket to the yellow jersey and the Jules Remet to the Ashes Urn sport has a plethora of unique and iconic prizes. None, however can hold a candle to the most famous of them all and yesterday all my dreams became reality as I finally got my hands on it. I am of course talking about the Manchester Area Cross Country League toothpaste and toothbrush.

As I displayed my trophy alongside my wife’s silverware I reflected upon a magnificent day for the mighty Sale Harriers. The red and green machine swept aside the competition with 4 finishers inside the top 8 confirming our status as the greatest running club in the local area and indeed planet earth. If you’d asked me on Monday if I’d have fancied my chances at taking the win I’d have laughed, but after surviving 3 days in a Lake District bunkhouse with 60 year 7 pupils at the end of the week I stood on the start line believing that anything was possible. Perhaps what doesn’t kill you really does make you stronger.

So it’s on to the important business and in order to match the improvements in the running side of the blog we have a very special guest to bring us some elite animals. Some might know him as coach, but for the next few weeks he’s our African correspondent Andy Walling. So from Windermere, Stockport and Dullstroom here are the animals we’ve seen this week.

An Ibis:

Our first feature comes from African Andy. Slightly more common than the much larger sacred ibis the hadeba ibis is named for its loud three to four note calls uttered in flight especially in the mornings and evenings when they fly out or return to their roost trees. Although not as dependent on water as some ibises, they are found near wetlands and often live in close proximity to humans, foraging in cultivated land and gardens.

Very hairy Bull:

Our next animal comes from the Lakeland fells of Gummer’s How. Gummer’s How is home to Luing cattle that roam the fell. They have been brought in to trample the bracken and increase the diversity of plants by there grazing. This gentle giant was more than happy to pose for a photo with a fan.

A pheasant:

This ring necked pheasant had found sanctuary from the bad poshos who might like to shoot him. Bet he didn’t bank of running into to 60 kids from Wythenshawe though. Frying pan and fire spring to mind.

Dorper Sheep:

Another welcome addition from our African correspondent. The Dorper is a South African breed of domestic sheep developed by crossing Dorset Horn and the Blackhead Persian sheep. The breed was created through the efforts of the South African Department of Agriculture to breed a meat sheep suitable to the more arid regions of the country.

These lovely dogs:

A great week for dogs this one….

A lovely Lakeland puppy

A flying schnauzer

A dog with a job in a high viz vest

And of course the mighty Sale Harriers mascot and local favourite Scout McCarron.

Many thanks to all this week’s contributors and readers. Remember to retweet, share, like and of course tell your mates. Until next time

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Dogring

This week’s blog begins with a heartfelt apology to you all. Yesterday, with best intentions, I made the ultimate sacrifice to bring you a dog of the day. I did what no man should ever have to do….

I went to Liverpool.

However the primary reason for my visit (photographing and reporting on dogs) soon fell by the wayside as I was distracted by some athletics. We arrived just in time to see Team Walling megastar Cari Hughes storm to a well deserved victory and that was followed by stellar performances from the rest of the team, especially handsome Dan Kashi who floated round the leafy fields with unrivalled elegance and grace. In all the excitement of the day there was barely time to stroke a whippet and so I returned from Liverpool without a record of the DOTD contenders. I did however return from Liverpool with this amazing dog ring which I will now wear every day in the hope that it brings me luck in racing well and meeting many amazing animals.

I’m going to talk about running a bit more than usual so please skip forward if you’re only here for animals.

Inspired by the achievements of my friends I took on the Run North West Wilmslow 10k today. It was a perfect day for road racing and I was keen to put to bed the demons of my last shoddy attempt. The course wound its way through some glorious Cheshire countryside and deciding which mansion I’d buy when I win the London Marathon provided a nice distraction from the pain. Fortunately all the people who are faster than me were busy today and I came home first. I celebrated by stopping my watch and pulling a silly face. I have no doubt that these events were solely due to the lucky dog ring so I will not be removing it from here on.

The lovely people at Run North West gave me a bottle of champagne and some money which I will spend on egg custards when we go to Portugal for my next 10k. I pulled another silly face.

Despite not accumulating enough dog photos for a DOTD I’m pleased to report there were a handful of handsome hounds on show this weekend and I’ve selected two of the finest for you dear reader:

This absolute legend was the second best supporter of the day, narrowly missing out on top spot to my wife. Seen here at around the half way mark he provided me with a 5k split and roared me on, giving me a huge boost going into the business end of the race.

Heading over to the presentation after the race I bumped into this very hairy athlete. He was queuing for a double macchiato at the time but was more than happy to pose for a photo with me.

Thanks for sticking with me throughout today’s running heavy blog. I promise there will be less of that nonsense next week and normal service will be resumed.

Until then retweet, share, like and tell your mates

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Bird Week

So it’s been 4 weeks since the return of the blog and the country is falling apart. I’m not certain those two things are connected but I’m not ruling it out.

This week I recovered from my chest infection and ran 80 miles. Some of those miles were fast and others were slow, some were in the morning and others in the evening, some were on my own and others were with friends. Next weekend I’m going to have another go at a 10k race, it will be better than my last attempt and I hope there will be some dogs to photograph.

That concludes the running update. Now for the main event.

As the deciduous trees shed their leaves for autumn our feathered friends appear from their treetop nests and join us on our Sunday runs. Some of them have truly wonderful names.

Welcome to bird week.

Regulus Regulus:

It’s pretty regular. Also known as the gold crest this is a tiny kinglet of conifer woodland, scrub, parks and gardens. In autumn, resident birds are joined by large numbers on migration; they arrive on the east coast and are often found in bushes and river banks. The Goldcrest is widespread in the UK, apart from in areas which are treeless, such as Salford, where nothing grows. In winter, it joins other tits (haha) and woodland birds in flocks. Although it is our smallest songbird, it can lay up to 12 eggs in a clutch, which is about one and a half times the adult female’s bodyweight.

Turdus Viscivorus:

That’s right. Turdus.

This pale, black-spotted thrush is large, aggressive and powerful much like myself. It stands boldly upright and bounds across the ground, while in flight it has long wings and white outer tail feathers. It is most likely to be noticed perched high at the top of a tree, singing its fluty song or giving its rattling call in flight.

Chiffchaff:

The Chiffchaff is a bird of woodland, scrub, parks and gardens. It sings its name out loud in a simple ‘chiff chaff chiff chaff’ song, which it performs from the tree canopy. Some Chiffchaffs stay all year-round, but most migrate here from Africa. They are one of our earliest arrivals, singing their hearts out from the end of February onwards.

Remember this for the week ahead dear reader, in a world of regulus regulus, be an ostrich.

Dog of the day next week. Until then remember to like, share, retweet and tell your mates.

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D.O.T.D round 1

‘It doesn’t matter how fast you’re going, just so long as you don’t stop’.

Confucius was a teacher, politician and philosopher. He was not a 10k runner so he should have kept his mouth shut about that. My race on Saturday was rubbish, I ran 10k at a slower pace than my half marathon and that made me a bit sad.

However, this setback could not be allowed to interrupt the most important event of the day. There were dogs to photograph, stroke and rank in order for your entertainment. What better way to kick off this season’s dog of the day than with an international double header. So ladies and gentlemen without further ado from Arley, England and Wrexham, Wales its round one of DOTD…. AND ITS LIVE!

5th place:

Our first dog of the season is this smiley chap. Amassing many imaginary dog points for floppy ears and a Golden Fleece that Jason and his Argonauts would have sailed across the world and had sword fights with skeletons for. Unfortunately not quite doing enough for a gold medal but a strong start nonetheless.

4th place:

Like an English greyhound but smooth talking and sharply dressed the Italian greyhound was a favourite companion of noblewomen from Milan. This one has not yet adapted to cold English mornings but after putting on his best jacket he probably felt quite at home in the affluent surroundings of Arley Hall.

3rd place:

This seasons first medal goes to the most fascinating dog I’ve seen on the circuit since DOTD began. Half

Chocolate Labrador and half miniature dachshund it’s best not to speculate as to how he came to be and just enjoy his existence. A fabulous bronze medalist.

1st place:

That’s right, for the first time in DOTD history we have a dead heat. In what’s surely a sign of things to come this season two heavyweights went head to head in our first fixture and is was impossible to separate them. Great to see such passion and energy from both dogs and it’s well deserved golds all round. Mollie the Sprollie and Ritchie the little brown dog.

Honourable mentions:

This week’s honourable mentions come from the most amazing place on Earth. The doghouse cafe in Wrexham caters for dogs and owners and is the perfect place to cheer yourself up after a bad run. Great scenes:

Adorable puppy.

Dogs in coats always score well. Perhaps on another day!

Sausages, you can dress it up

Give it a name and a fancy uniform

And a flag to fly to hide behind

Can you not see the truth that’s on the ground.

Poodle and puddle.

That’s concluded round one for this season. Thanks for tuning in folks. See you next week.

Remember to like, share and tell your mates

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Bonfire night is stupid.

On a fine day for road racing this week’s blog starts with a big well done to all my friends who put one foot in front of the other in really quick succession on the French Riviera, North Wales coast and the A65 between Leeds city centre and Kirkstall Abbey. There has been no racing for me this week as I prepare to tackle the Cheshire 10k next Saturday which promises a flat fast course and some stunning local wildlife.

Instead of racing I have just returned from a delightful Sunday run with a GBOL (great bunch of lads) which has been the icing on my 85 mile long sponge cake of a week. During our run we discussed many cutting edge techniques to become better athletes such as not existing solely on egg and cheese and running more often. We plan to write a book on the topic which will no doubt sell many millions of copies.

Now, before we get onto this week’s animals I’m going to take this opportunity to use my platform as a global blogging megastar for some good. Bonfire night is fast approaching and for reasons I cannot comprehend the people of Britain are about to spend £490m on setting fire to some potassium nitrate. Hedgehogs see bonfires as perfect hiding places and the RSPA estimates that 45% of dogs will show signs of stress due to the noise. So please follow these simple steps to make bonfire night better for our furry friends:

  • Check that bonfires are clear of animals
  • Play some music in your house to ease the dog’s worry ( I recommend the third studio album by I am Kloot ‘Gods and Monsters’)
  • Take the money that would have spent on frieworks and give it to your local donkey sanctuary instead

Anyway, the business end of things, here are the animals I’ve seen this week while I’ve been running:

Kestrel

Making use of the River Mersey’s breeze to hover above the bank, Britain’s smallest Raptor caused us to up the pace to avoid being swooped. The kestrel’s most important food source is the vole, but it will also eat other small mammals like woodmice and shrews, as well as birds, invertebrates, and lizards. When hunting, it hovers over fields scanning for its prey and when the weather is worse, it hunts from a perch. An intelligent bird, the kestrel has learnt to wait for farm vehicles to disturb prey in the field, before swooping down to collect its food. It has incredible sight and can see and catch a beetle from a remarkable 50 metres away.

Kingfisher

Seen only as a blue flash along the river bank the illusive Eurasion Kingfisher hunts with unrivalled speed and precision. Masters of air and water they are capable of compensating for the refraction of water and reflection when hunting prey underwater, and are able to judge depth accurately. Kingfishers also have nictitating membranes that cover the eyes to protect them when they hit the water.

Very Hairy Caterpillar

The buff tipped caterpillar is striking: large, hairy and yellow, like the honey monster with a black head and a ring of short black stripes on every segment. They often gather together in large numbers, eating the leaves of lime, birch, hazel and willow trees; they sometimes defoliate whole branches, but rarely cause serious damage.

That’s all for this week team. Next week we travel to Cheshire and Wrexham for a DOTD double header to open the season. There’s a tasty clash between defending champion Dingo and emerging talent Mollie the Sprollie in the offing and I’m sure many more contenders will come to the fore.

Remember to like, share and tell your mates.

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SEAson 2

It’s 1100BC. The Bronze Age. In China the vulnerable Shang Dynasty is about be overthrown by the Zhou Dynasty. Astronomer Chou Li concludes that planet Earth rotates around an axis with a tilt of 23.5 degrees.

Fast forward 3118 years and the people of Manchester still express consternation at the change in temperature and daylight hours which signal the start of winter. “Oh my god, I can’t believe how dark it is” they cry at 5.15. What would Chou Li make of it all?

Fear not though dear reader as winter also brings the return of my weekly blog and of course some cross country dog of the day specials. This season will see reigning champion Dingo face tough competition from canines across Greater Manchester and North Wales for the DOTD league title and we’ll also travel to Leeds and Sheffield to decide the Northern and National DOTD cups.

Although we’re always hesitant to speculate as to the importance of pre season games there have been a couple of eye catching performances from potential contenders Mollie the sprollie and Macsen the Labrador du Cymreig. We look forward to seeing if they can carry this momentum forward when the season gets going.

There will of course also be weekly updates keeping you informed of the animals that I’ve seen while I’ve been running. Since the last update there’s been a few developments in my world: I ran a decent half marathon round my home town, I ran a decent marathon in Scotland, I ran a decent 5k in Burnley, I had a decent wedding.

I also saw some very decent animals.

So blog fans, for the first time this winter, these are the animals I’ve seen… IN THE MALDIVES:

Maldivian Mega Bat:

That’s right, this is not just any bat it’s a MEGAbat. Also known as the Indian flying fox this is the continent’s largest bat and one of the largest in the world, weighing up to 1.6 kg. The wings rise from the side of the dorsum and from the back of the second toe, and its thumb has a powerful claw which it uses to expose the nutritious innards of tropical fruit.

The Stingray:

Infamously responsible for the tragic death of Australian naturalist and adventurer Steve Irwin Stingrays inhabit warm temperate and tropical waters. They are bottom dwellers and often lie partially buried in the shallows. Stingrays eat worms, mollusks, and other invertebrates, sometimes badly damaging valuable shellfish beds. They lash their tails when threatened and large stingrays can exert enough force to drive their tail spines into a wooden boat.

A Heron:

Yes you can see them on the canal but that doesn’t stop it being interesting. This one was even willing to have his photo taken with me!

The Triggerfish:

Pseudobalistes fuscus to his mates. A busy fish, using his strong jaw to chip away at coral in order to create the perfect home for his family. Shortly after this picture was taken I was advised that trigger fish should not be approached due to their aggressive nature and tendency to inflict painful bites. This beauty didn’t mind posing for the camera though.

Unicorn Fish:

So maybe unicorn aren’t real but if you get yourself a snorkel you can see the next best thing. The unicorn fish are known for their rostral protuberance and are incredibly friendly by nature. Sadly, as with the dodo, this nativity threatens their very existence as they’re more than happy to jump straight into the nets of grateful fishermen.

Thanks for taking the time out to read, I look forward to sharing many adventures and species with you throughout the winter of sport.

Remember to like, retweet, share and tell your mates. Next week we’ll be looking at how animals drink…

Until then

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