Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Top 20 of 2014


I've given up on writing a new intro for this - it's going to be the same every year so we should all make our peace with it now.

Below is my Top 20 of 2014 but a few words before you continue...

You won't agree with me.  Some of you will think I'm pretentious for including a raft of songs you've never heard of.  Some of you will think I'm too 'mainstream' in my choices.  Some of you will think this is a massive exercise in showing off.  And that's fine.  My opinion is no better or worse than yours and my choices are no more or less valid than yours would be.  This is just my opinion - you might not like it but I can't help that.  But before you grumble to yourself or tell me I'm an idiot, try and do this yourself.

The "rules" are simple - any song that has been released (as a single, on an album or even as demo/give-away) is eligible to be included.  Pick 20 that represent your favourite and don't include more than one per artist.   I added a rule of my own where I'd limit myself to maximum one choice where collaborations had occurred.  So for example, both Arctic Monkeys and Alex Turner individually made the 2011 Longlist but I would limit myself to a choice from one.  This is only to add variety.  You can find the Top 20 of 2011Top 20 of 2012 and Top 20 of 2013 by following the links.

The list presented below is given as Track name - Artist (Album).  They are not ranked in order of preference or greatness but rather the order in which I personally think they make a good playlist.  I'd love to hear what you think so get involved in the comments or tweet me @BroooOwl and tag your posts #top20of2014

1.  Southern Comfort - The Orwells (Disgraceland)   This is quite simply guitars and drawling lyrics and superbness.  In my opinion, the album has some absolute belters like this (and Bathroom Tile Blues) and this is a great way to kick off this year's list.

2.  My Silver Lining - First Aid Kit (Stay Gold)   First Aid Kit are probably top of my list of bands to see live.  I'm yet to see them perform much to my own disappointment.  I love their country twang and this song is quintessential FAK for me.

3.  When You Walk In The Room - Architecture in Helsinki (NOW +4EVA)   Another band I'm determined to see live at some point in the future.  This is proper pop gold and jumps out from an excellent album.  Their previous albums are all a little different so well worth checking out too.

4.  Love Test - The Growlers (Chinese Fountain)   The Growlers' album has a very 50s feel to it which is hard to describe until you listen to it.  It's almost as if you'd expect to hear Buddy Holly vocals over the top of it.  I came across this pretty late this year but it's an instant favourite and this track particularly is excellent.

5. Banging On My Door - High Hazels (High Hazels)   There's a couple of albums where picking a favourite is almost a coin toss and this is one of those.  The opening track has a hint of Vampire Weekend about it, whilst others are reminiscent of Alex Turner solo work.  Banging On My Door just edged it in the end but you should get the album - I can't do it justice here.

6.  It's Not Serious - Hospitality (Trouble)   This just flows from the start and has a chorus that you'll be humming to yourself for hours afterwards.  It's the stand out track on the album for me but quite some way,

7.  Pretty Girls - Little Dragon (Nabuma Rubberband)   I've been in love with Little Dragon for years since hearing "Ritual Union" (hunt it down and listen to it!) and whilst this isn't quite up to that impossibly high standard, it is very good.

8.  Quiet Love - Erland And The Carnival (Closing Time)   Another album where you could stick a pin in the track list and pick a winner.  I was tempted to include "Daughter" because I personally find it very moving but on balance I think this is my favourite track from an exceptional album.

9.  My Sad Captains - Elbow (The Taking Off And Landing Of Everything)   Guy Garvey is criminally under-rated in my opinion.  His ability to write such fantastic songs goes over-looked by most people and really that ought to change.  I was lucky enough to see Elbow this year and they didn't disappoint.  This is simply fantastic.

10.  Are You OK? - Dum Dum Girls (Too True)   If you're after a throwback to some cool 80s girl group sound then stop everything and listen to this.  If I didn't know better, I'd swear it was a Bananarama track and think what you like but there's nothing wrong with that at all.  

11.  Gooey - Glass Animals (Zaba)  Slowing things down a bit with is Glass Animals.  It's a peculiar but good album and this really stands out for me.  It's difficult to explain so it probably makes more sense if you just have a listen - I think you'll enjoy it.

12.  Pretend - Tinashe (Aquarius)  I had Tinashe described to me as "a bit like Aaliyah" which is really all you should need to know if we're being honest.  The album doesn't disappoint and whilst I think this suffers slightly for the inclusion of A$AP Rocky I can overlook it given how much I like the song overall. 

13.  How You Got That Girl - Ex Hex (Rips)   You could almost describe Ex Hex as Dum Dum Girls with attitude.  The guitars are excellent and this is one you'll be nodding along to.  My daughter loves the chorus and I think it's a bit of late 90s throwback which you can't help but like.

14.  Pumpkin Noir - Happyness (Weird Little Birthday)   Slow, soft and subtle.  There's just something about this that makes you feel like you're sitting in an Ohio field on a summer's day.  It has a very familiar quality that I can't pin down but I absolutely love it.

15.  Zombie - Jamie T (Carry On The Grudge)   The album that'd I'd been most eagerly waiting for in 2014 didn't disappoint.  As with most music, Jamie T isn't necessarily for everyone (which is fine) but I really love the images his music conjures up.  I defy anyone to listen to "Zombie" and not be tapping along by the start of the second chorus.  

16.  Alone In My Home - Jack White (Lazaretto)   An odd love/hate relationship with Jack White this year for me.  The album is great and this track is exceptional.  My live experience was a disaster but I'm not holding that against him (I'm sure he's relieved to hear that...).   Jack White does a lot and does it all very well - this is no different.

17.  Sexotheque - La Roux (Trouble In Paradise)   I'm glad La Roux is back this year.  It's been five long years since her self titled debut with it's myriad catchy hits and I'm glad there's a second record.  Where 'Trouble In Paradise' is catchy, it's very catchy and "Sexotheque" is one such place - enjoy!

18.  Lonely Daze - Kate Tempest (Everybody Down)   I'm fairly sure there's nothing I can say about Kate Tempest that hasn't already been said a lot better by other people a million times before.  It's hard to pick out a track from an album that tells one story across all the tracks but this is a wonderful snapshot.

19.  Suffering You Suffering Me - Slow Club (Complete Surrender)   Slow Club go from strength to strength with every record and I'm immensely happy to already have tickets to see their home-town gig in Sheffield next year.  I adore Rebecca Taylor's voice and it's at its best on this song.  Another album where choosing a favourite is damn near impossible.  

20.  Red Eyes - The War On Drugs (Lost In The Dream)   I'll admit I was a little surprised to see 'Lost In The Dream' at the top of so many 2014 album lists.  It was one of those I don't remember how I found but I've definitely enjoyed listening to it.  "Red Eyes" is the stand out one for me and a great way to close the 2014 list.

As with last year, there's some music I've been disappointed in, some other good albums that didn't make the cut and others that I'm ashamed to say I've not even managed to buy yet!  The Royal Blood album didn't do it for me (which is sure to make me unpopular in a lot of circles).  I saw them support Arctic Monkeys and gave them the benefit of the doubt but it's just not for me I'm afraid.   Amen Dunes and their Love album just missed out as did Catfish & The Bottlemen and (surprisingly) Kylie.  For those who would point me in the direction of Sharon Van Etten, St Vincent or Future Islands, in some ways I'm way ahead of you, but in others, I'm obviously way behind.  My apologies.

The "award" for my Album of the Year this year is a no-brainer.  Everybody Down is absolutely without doubt one of the best things I've listened to in the last 5 years (and that's saying something).   Kate Tempest is supremely talented and has already achieved so much without so many of us even realising it.  Listen to her album, buy her poetry and just be overawed. 

The 2014 Live Performance Of The Year is also reserved for Kate Tempest.  When you've listened to the album (which again, I insist you do), try and imagine what it would be like hearing it performed live.  Ahead of the show I couldn't quite see how it would work and not lose the essence that makes the music so good.  Watching her walk out to a HUGE amount of music and then kick of "Marshall Law" acapella to a hushed room was probably my favourite music moment of the year.
If you made it this far, then thanks for reading.  Hopefully you'll find something new you've not heard before.  We'll do it again this time next year eh?

Happy New Year


Sunday, 14 December 2014

Top 20 of 2014 - The Longlist


Its that time of year where I start reviewing the new music I've listened to over the past year.

If you're not too familiar with the approach, you can see the 2011 Longlist and 2011 Shortlist posts by clicking the links.  The 2012 Longlist and 2012 Shortlist are also here if you fancy reading, whilst last year's can be found on the 2013 Longlist and 2013 Shortlist links!  Basically anything which has been released since Jan 1st 2014 is eligible.  I've narrowed down about 45 albums and EPs to a Long list of 92 tracks.  I'll then go through and select a Top 20 of 2014.

It's a good way to review the year and find some new music along the way.  Hope you enjoy.


Artist Album Track
Amen Dunes Love Lonely Richard
Amen Dunes Love Splits Are Parted
Amen Dunes Love Sixteen
Architecture in Helsinki NOW +4EVA When You Walk In The Room
Architecture in Helsinki NOW +4EVA Dream a Little Crazy
Architecture in Helsinki NOW +4EVA Boom (4EVA)
Architecture in Helsinki NOW +4EVA Born to Convince You
Black Angels Clear Lake Forest Sunday Evening
Black Keys Turn Blue In Time
Black Keys Turn Blue 10 Lovers
Catfish & The Bottlemen The Balcony Homesick
Catfish & The Bottlemen The Balcony Fallout
Cloud Boat Model Of You All On Of My Years
Conor Oberst Upside Down Mountain Kick
Conor Oberst Upside Down Mountain Zigzagging Toward The Light
Dum Dum Girls Too True Rimbaud Eyes
Dum Dum Girls Too True Are You OK?
Dum Dum Girls Too True  Too True To Be Good
Dum Dum Girls Too True  Trouble Is My Name
Elbow The Taking Off and Landing of Everything Charge
Elbow The Taking Off and Landing of Everything Fly Boy Blue/Lunette
Elbow The Taking Off and Landing of Everything My Sad Captains
Erland & The Carnival Closing Time Closing Time
Erland & The Carnival Closing Time Quiet Love
Erland & The Carnival Closing Time Birth of a Nation
Erland & The Carnival Closing Time Daughter
Ex Hex Rips How You Got That Girl
Ex Hex Rips Hot and Cold
Ex Hex Rips New Kid
First Aid Kit Stay Gold My Silver Lining
First Aid Kit Stay Gold Master Pretender
First Aid Kit Stay Gold Waitress Song
Glass Animals Zaba Gooey
Happyness Weird Little Birthday Pumpkin Noir
High Hazels High Hazels Valencia
High Hazels High Hazels Banging On My Door
High Hazels High Hazels Night Song
High Hazels High Hazels Hanging Moon
Hospitality Trouble Nightingale
Hospitality Trouble Going Out
Hospitality Trouble I Miss Your Bones
Hospitality Trouble It's Not Serious
Jack White Lazaretto Three Women
Jack White Lazaretto Lazaretto
Jack White Lazaretto Bat Black Liquorice
Jack White Lazaretto Alone In My Home
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge Limits Lie
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge Don't You Find
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge Zombie
Jamie T Carry On The Grudge The Prophet
Jungle Jungle Accelerate
Jungle Jungle Busy Earnin'
Jungle Jungle Julia
Kate Tempest Everybody Down Marshall Law
Kate Tempest Everybody Down Lonely Daze
Kylie Kiss Me Once Into The Blue
Kylie Kiss Me Once Million Miles
Kylie Kiss Me Once Feels So Good
La Roux Trouble in Paradise Kiss And Not Tell
La Roux Trouble in Paradise Sexotheque
Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Cruel World
Lana Del Rey Ultraviolence Fucked My Way Up To The Top
Little Dragon Nabuma Rubberband Mirror
Little Dragon Nabuma Rubberband Pretty Girls
Mac DeMarco Salad Days Salad Days
Michael A Grammar Michael A Grammar The Day I Come Alive
Michael A Grammar Michael A Grammar Suzanna
Michael A Grammar Michael A Grammar Nature's Child
Slow Club Complete Surrender Tears Of Joy
Slow Club Complete Surrender Suffering You Suffering Me
Slow Club Complete Surrender Not Mine To Love
Slow Club Complete Surrender Complete Surrender
The Growlers Chinese Fountain Big Toe
The Growlers Chinese Fountain Going Gets Tough
The Growlers Chinese Fountain Love Test
The Horrors Luminous Chasing Shadows
The Horrors Luminous First Day of Spring
The Horrors Luminous So Now You Know
The Orwells Disgraceland Southern Comfort
The Orwells Disgraceland The Righteous One
The Orwells Disgraceland Bathroom Tile Blues
The Orwells Disgraceland Let It Burn
The Proper Ornaments Wooden Head Gone
The Proper Ornaments Wooden Head Sun
The War on Drugs Lost In The Dream Red Eyes
Tinashe Aquarius Pretend
Tinashe Aquarius All Hands On Deck
Tinashe Aquarius Far Side of the Moon
TVOTR Seeds Careful you
TVOTR Seeds Could You
We have band Movements Someone
We have band Movements Please

Friday, 10 October 2014


So this is my final blog post anywhere before Sunday's Yorkshire Marathon attempt.

I say attempt because that's exactly what it is.  Despite all the training and hard work that's lead me up to this point, there's absolutely no guarantees of anything and I need to carry this determination over the start line and around York to get me to the end.

That's not to say I don't feel prepared because I think I am.  Definitely more so than I was two and a half years ago in London.  I've paid a lot more attention to my diet and training and I've focused on more than simply just logging miles.

I said recently that almost every day this year has been a lead up to this race.  Whilst I know I don't have anything to prove to anyone, I still feel like I owe myself something - that the first time I did a marathon wasn't really a true reflection of what I might be capable of.

I boldly said at the start of the year that I could knock an hour off my last time (5:30:41) and I still think that with some good conditions and a little bit of luck, that might be possible on Sunday. I think 4:45 is a more achievable time but I'm not going to put any pressure on myself to do anything until 18 or 19 miles in.

Experience tells me that the last 7-8 miles are the hardest and I'm hoping I can put myself in contention with something I can personally be proud of at that point.   If not, then maybe it just wasn't my day and whatever happens, I'll be glad to get round.

I read somewhere recently that running a marathon has become "normalised" to some degree.  Back in 1981 when the first London Marathon was staged, running 26.2 miles was a rare thing that few people outside of elite athletes even attempted.  My dad doing the 1989 marathon was what hooked me in from an early age.

Nowadays there are so many opportunities open to people that want to go that full distance (which I think is fantastic), but what I think it means is the effort that goes into preparing for a marathon gets lost.  Basically it's incredibly hard work for your average Joe like me. 

To give you some idea of what it takes to get to the start line, I've run 507.33 miles so far this year - roughly the distance from Sheffield to John and I've spent 86 hours, 16 minutes and 25 seconds training.  It's a huge commitment and it's very tiring.   But compare that to 2012 when I'd logged just under 195 miles (and just 36 hours running) it's a huge step forward.

Whilst running is mostly fun (and running in a big race with a big crowd is almost certainly the closest I'll ever get to being a rock star), it also has it's downsides.  It can be very painful, at distances over about 18 miles it can make you want to be horribly sick and you can ache in places you never knew existed.

Of course I have to manage diabetes alongside all that too which makes it a little more complicated.  I'm hoping I've had enough practice this year to have a clear strategy set out, and I'm hoping the jelly babies I'll be scoffing every few miles won't make me throw up (though you never can tell.

In short, I'm not taking anything for granted, but I'm hoping I can get round in a reasonable time and do so without injuring myself!

In 2012 I spent the day before the race watching The Hunger Games at the Odeon in Leicester Square.  This year I'll be at a networking day for Diabetes UK (conveniently held in York) meeting volunteers and other local group members, before having dinner and an early night.  It's good to have something to take my mind off it all and I'm hoping there'll be a lot to think about which will distract me whilst I'm running the next day.

Going to York is very much like going home, as I lived there for 10 years, and the start/finish will be at York University where I studied for four years.  I'm hoping it'll be a great weekend all round.

Finally, I just want to thank everyone who's supported me in one way or another.  I've received a lot of encouragement from friends and family and it's been great to see so many people generously donate to Diabetes UK.  I've raised £635 so far and I'm really hoping I can make it to £1000 before the end of the year.  I won't tell you all again, how much good that money will do (check any of my last blogs to see what I mean) but trust me, it really will make such a huge difference.  If you want to donate, then please visit http://www.justgiving.com/broomhead or text BROO81 10 to 7007 to donate £10.

I'll see you all on the other side with the verdict on how it went.

Thanks for reading.


Monday, 22 September 2014

Reasons to be cheerful

The Yorkshire Marathon is 20 days away now and I’m now fully focused on the last nine (NINE!) training runs before the big day.


I did my longest run yesterday – 22.2 miles – which is the furthest I’ve ever done in training and the second furthest I’ve ever done in my life.  The time of 4 hours 10 was a little outside what I’d hoped, but nothing too demoralising so I felt pretty pleased with it all things considered.  I didn’t push hard at all to be honest – didn’t tackle any of the major inclines on my route as I was trying to leave a bit of energy for the later, more gruelling miles.


I got to about 19 miles before I really felt like I was struggling but, that said, a lot of the last 3 miles was uphill which I took at a walking pace.  I’m also having to do these longer runs with a backpack carrying spare water as I can’t convince people to set up impromptu water stations for me around Sheffield.  Losing that bit of weight might make a difference.


I’ve decided that while a sub 4:30 marathon might still be a remote possibility for me, a lot of that will come down to conditions on the day.  You can train, plan and prepare as much as possible but sometimes things just won’t quite click and you’ll not get the performance you wanted.  Conversely, you can feel under-prepared and go out and have a great run.  I’m prepared to accept that unknown factor so I’ll just take it as it comes.  I feel confident I’ll beat my last time (5:30:41) and I’m quietly confident I can do sub-5.  Anything after that is a bonus.


This coming weekend will be interesting as I’m doing 20 miles on Saturday followed by another 6 on Sunday morning as part of the Great Yorkshire Run.  After that it’s some swift tapering before Race Day.


I’m also feeling pretty pleased about my weight for once as I’ve finally managed to get below 180lbs for the first time in about 5 years.  It’s fair to say that marathon training whilst dieting has played a major part in that, but I’m now looking to  just try and maintain this new weight.  It feels strange actively trying to find extra calories to eat (rather than avoid!) but I’m hoping it’ll build up my energy stores over the next few weeks and maybe make those last few miles a bit more bearable.


My diabetes seems to be behaving itself as well with all my post run blood glucose levels being in a ‘normal’ range.  I’m having to scoff most of a bag of jelly babies throughout the course of a long run but it seems to be paying off.  Hopefully that’s going to continue without incident.  It’s an added variable I have to take into account on each run and the longer I can keep it well controlled the better.


Finally it’s been a pleasing week from a fundraising perspective with people generously donating another £30 to take the total raised to £215 so far.  There’s still a long way to go to the £1000 target but it’s great to see the notifications come through about new donations – it really is an added incentive to get out and run.


I read something recently discussing how running a marathon had become ‘normalised’ because of the number of events and the number of people signing up for each one.  I think that is true to a large degree because it is a lot easier to find an event that it was 15-20 years ago.  But what that doesn’t do is normalise the amount of work that goes into preparing for running 26.2 miles.  It’s still an incredibly hard slog and the support that comes in from friends, colleagues and family makes a real difference.


As you probably know by now, I’m raising money for Diabetes UK so they can help to support the millions of people living with diabetes on a daily basis.  Diabetes is a chronic condition that directly affects more than 4 million people in the UK (and over 30,000 in my home city alone).   There’s also an estimated 700,000 people who may have undiagnosed diabetes at present, and seven million adults are currently at risk of developing type 2 diabetes.


The money I’m hoping to raise will pay for 20 qualified assessors to help people at risk understand what changes they can make to reduce their risk and be able to live a long and healthy life.


If you feel like you can spare a few pounds to help this incredibly worthwhile cause, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/broomhead or text BROO81 + your donation to 70070 (e.g. BROO81 5 to donate £5).


As always, thanks for reading.




Monday, 8 September 2014

Five weeks to go

I’m conscious I’ve not done an update for a while and with just under five weeks to go until the Yorkshire Marathon, I thought I let you know how I’ve been getting on.


I’ve logged just over 380 miles this year now and I’m on track to go over the 600 I’d planned for 2014 in total.  That’s quite encouraging in a sense because while I started the year pretty well, I had a huge dip around March/April after I’d done the Retford Half Marathon and it took quite a lot of motivation to get back out running at all, never mind training for a marathon.


I’m now very much at the business end of the training – three weeks of long runs and lots of miles, followed by two weeks of tapering (when I basically try not to undo all the hard work a fortnight before the big day!).  I logged 101 miles for August and I think September will be close to 120.


It was great to see the coverage of the Great North Run this weekend as I find it incredibly motivational to see all those people pushing themselves to their personal limits to get round the course.  Hopefully that’ll be what I can manage in a few weeks’ time.


Whilst running is obviously very much about overcoming physical barriers, it’s also crucial to be able to overcome the mental barriers too.  I’ve had my training plan set out for a few months now, but when it came to entering the last few long runs into my diary, I started thinking a lot more about what it means to run 18/20/22 miles just for training purposes, never mind the 26.2 miles for the actual race.  My wife has pointed out how physically and emotionally exhausted I was last time I tried this and she’s right – I was a complete wreck by the time I’d finished.  But at the same time, I’d like to think that no-one goes into a marathon thinking it’ll be anything but exhausting in every way. 


As a way of trying to promote a positive mind-set, I’ve been contrasting my first and second marathons:

 2012 London Marathon

Started training with one mile runs, having not run at all for over a year

Completely unknown territory – previous best distance was 13 miles about 15 year previously

Average mile times were about 11-12 minutes in training

Diet was mixed with no real information around the relationship between nutrition and running

Unsure how to deal with illness and injury – missed 5 or 6 training runs in the build up

Ran twice a week as pain meant any more wasn’t possible

Managing my diabetes whilst doing distance running was completely alien – lot of trial and error involved

2014 Yorkshire Marathon

Had logged over 700 miles in the run up to training

Know exactly what I’m getting into in terms of distance and the required mind-set

Average mile times are between 9.5-10.5 minutes and less than 11 minutes on hilly routes

More structured diet, eating the right foods at the right time

Able to handle niggles/aches/pain more effectively and better at preventing them

Run three times a week plus including non-impact training as well

Ready-made strategy to manage blood glucose levels whilst running and start/finish readings often almost identical


As you might gather from that, I feel like I’m in a lot better place physically which is very reassuring with my eye on Saturday morning’s 18 mile run.  I also think that mentally I’m a lot more clued up.  I know it’s going to hurt, I know I’m going to feel sick, that I’m going to have impossibly sore legs, and probably lose a toe nail or two along the way.  But ultimately I’m OK with that because it’s all temporary and I’ll live to tell the tale.  What I need to concentrate on is running my own race and not getting caught up in what other people are doing.  I’m not built to run a marathon in 3 or even 4 hours so putting myself down while reading about other people’s training isn’t going to help, and neither is trying to keep up with them on the day.  I’ve got to just zone out and do my best to ignore what everyone else does.


My training is currently focused on the end of September when I’ll do my 22 mile run on Saturday afternoon, and get up to do the Great Yorkshire Run (GYR) on the Sunday.  Thankfully I’m not looking to run any sort of fast time in the GYR and I’m just using it as a cool down run.  After that, my distances will drop to no more than 10 miles and I’ll be concentrating on keeping my legs fresh and injury free.


I feel like my diabetes has been incredibly stable over the last few weeks too which is good.  It often takes a while for me to get into a cycle where I can almost manage it without thinking and I feel like my current diet and exercise regime is really helping me at the moment.  I’m eating fresh, healthy food for every meal and I’m exercising regularly and that definitely shows in my blood glucose readings every day.  I’ve got an annual review coming up at the hospital in a couple of weeks so I’m hoping my consultant is going to be as pleased as I am.


As always, for those of you that made it this far, I’m going to finish with a little bit about the charity I’m running for this year – Diabetes UK.  There’s been a lot of press about charity recently and chances are unless you’ve been in outer space, you’ll be familiar with the Ice Bucket Challenge and the incredible amounts of money it’s raised for charities all around the world.  What you might not be so familiar with is how much charities like Diabetes UK rely on fundraising and donations to help the millions of people in the UK who either have diabetes, or are at risk of developing it.  As I may have mentioned before, almost 4 million people in the UK currently have diagnosed diabetes, with almost another 750,000 people who may have it but be undiagnosed.  Another 7 million adults are at risk of developing the condition in the future.


As I wrote last time, diabetes currently accounts for almost 10% of the prescribing costs of the NHS and this will only increase as more people get diagnosed.   Helping to educate those at risk to reduce the number of people with diabetes is critical, as is the ongoing support and education of those already diagnosed to reduce the chances of them developing serious long term complications such as blindness.  As if helping and educating all these people isn’t a big enough task in itself, Diabetes UK is a charity with a relatively limited budget.


To use another UK charity for comparison, Macmillan spent more than one-and-a-half times  the entire Diabetes UK’s 2013 annual income on their fundraising activities alone (£58.1m on fundraising vs £38m annual income).


Fundraising and donations are crucial to helping those with diabetes be able to live their lives and you can make a huge difference to millions of people by donating.   By running a full marathon, a half marathon and three 10km races, I’m hoping to raise £1,000 this year to make a difference to people with diabetes.  If you have anything you can spare, please visit http://www.justgiving.com/broomhead or text BROO81 + your donation to 70070 (e.g. BROO81 10 to donate £10).


Thank you.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014


Another week down and the miles are stacking up now.  I’ve now covered over 300 miles this year which is quite satisfying.  You may remember from a previous post that I covered 450 miles throughout all of 2013 and I was hoping to make 600 miles for 2014.  Whilst I might only have just gone over halfway to that target (with almost two thirds of the year gone), I think I’ll make 600 comfortably by New Year’s Eve.


It’d been a slightly mixed week with my first “long” run of the training now behind me.  It probably went about as well as I’d expected – a quick first 6 miles followed by a slower return home giving me an average pace of10:22 per mile.  It’s easy to pick out the negatives (the return was a lot slower than I would have liked) and the positives (that overall pace would get me a 4:30 marathon time) but I think I’m just content to have managed 12 miles without injury.   I’ve got some longer distances ahead of me over the next 8 weeks, including 16, 18, 20 and 22 miles before the race so drawing on the positives is going to be key over the next couple of months.


This week’s training began yesterday with (a little over) 4 miles.  It felt quite slow and broken as I couldn’t seemed to find a rhythm or any power in my legs (despite 3 days off from running) but actually it was actually better than I thought.  Perhaps I’ve been setting some higher (and slightly unrealistic) expectations of myself recently and I need to look at setting a reasonable pace and trying to stick to it for longer distances.  Saturday will be a 14 mile run – my longest of 2014 so that will be a good opportunity to get some proper race practice.


In more exciting news, my weekly dual with the bathroom scales showed I’d dropped to my lowest weight of 2014 which is really encouraging.  Again, 188lbs is possibly not something you’d want to shout from the rooftops (just an internet blog…) it’s good to see that there’s another payoff to dieting and running.  A quick check of a BMI calculator says I’m still overweight which I knew and that really to have a “healthy” BMI score, I’d need to lose over another stone.  I’m fairly sure that’s ambitious and really unsustainable in the long term but I’m quite happy to see where my reduced calorie diet and exercise program will take me.


A word on food and nutrition before I finish.  Having Type 1 diabetes means I fixate on food a lot more than a lot of other people I know.  My daily life is a series of maths problems regarding carbohydrate content, insulin doses and blood glucose levels.  I suppose in some ways, that makes dieting easier as I’m always looking at food labels before I eat anyway – now I’m just checking calorie content as well as carbs.  I’m currently on a diet of 1200 net calories a day which is about as fun and restrictive as it sounds.  But it does mean I’m losing some weight and I’m making more healthy decisions around what I eat.


Work days are all fairly similar – salad for lunch with some oatcakes for low GI carbs to keep me going.  My evening meal is usually grilled  fish or white meat with some green vegetables and either wholemeal bread on rest days (to keep a slow release of energy) or some pasta after running (to quickly replenish the energy I’ve used from exercising).  I know as I start really picking up the distance that 1200 calories a day just isn’t going to be practical, but by then I’m hoping I’ll be at a lower weight that I can sustain with more food on a daily basis.  But for the time being, this diet focuses me on making sensible, healthy choices with what I eat and it seems to be working well for my overall health and wellbeing.


As usual, a final mention of my fundraising page.  I’ve raised £160 so far against a target of £1,000 for the year.  I’m incredibly grateful to all those who have generously parted with their hard earned money to donate to Diabetes UK.  Raising £1,000 would mean that Diabetes UK could train 20 risk-assessment volunteers who work at Lifestyle roadshows, connecting with some of the 7 million people at risk of Type 2 diabetes and helping them to make sensible diet and lifestyle choices to reduce their risk of getting diabetes in the future.      Prescribing is the second highest area of spend in the NHS (after staffing costs) and in 2013-4, diabetes prescribing accounted for almost 10% of that cost (up from 6.6% in 2005-6).  Helping to educate people at risk will not only make their lives better in the long run, but will go some way to reducing the huge strain that diabetes places on the NHS.


If you can spare anything at all, please click on the link to the fundraising page and donate, or test BROO81 £5 to 70070 to donate via text.



Sunday, 10 August 2014


The most intense training week I've probably ever had is finally behind me...and I actually feel pretty good about it.

If you remember from last week, I was planning on 2, 3, 4 and 5 mile runs this week, using the shorter ones to try and have some actual speed and the longer ones to translate that into some pace over more miles.

Family and charity commitments over the next week or so meant I actually had to pull one of Week 4's runs forward into this week so I had an additional 6 mile effort in there too, making it 20 miles for two consecutive weeks which is something to be pretty proud of!

To say I've done 5 runs in 7 days (something I've never attempted before) I feel pretty good and my times have reflected that.   My average pace across the last 20 miles is 9:26 minute miles compared with an average of 10:13 for the previous week.

I know for most people, they aren't anything amazing to write home about (and I look at others on Twitter who are training for the same race and they're a lot faster).  The one thing about marathon running is that for 99% of people entering you're only really racing yourself - it doesn't matter how everyone else does so I'm trying not to pay too much attention to other people and just focus on doing what I'm doing.

I talked last time about how conditions are something you need to bear in mind when running and managing your diabetes.  This week the weather has given me a fair few challenges, varying between warm sunshine and monsoon rain.  Fortunately I've managed to take most of that in my stride (pun unintended).

The most difficult run this week was the 6 miler this morning (Sunday).  Having been out four times already meant I was pretty tired but I'd had one of those nights with my diabetes that meant it was all the more difficult to motivate myself to get going.  I'd replaced my cannula just before bed as the adhesive had lost its usefulness but this is something you should generally avoid because if you put the new one in wrong and you don't get insulin properly, it can be pretty catastrophic and you're unlikely to know during the night.

For some reason I still don't understand, the new one only lasted about 20 minutes so I was still up at nearly midnight putting a third cannula in (and sticking it down with surgical tape to be certain).  To make sure I was going to be OK, I set an alarm for 1:30am to get up and check my blood glucose (which was fortunately OK).  I then had a hypo at 5:30am so I was up again to eat and raise my blood before I set off to run.  That's a fairly good (but thankfully rare) example of a diabetes rollercoaster - highs and lows and the physical strain of dealing with everything in between too.

Thankfully I managed to get round in a pretty decent time and made it home in the rain before it properly bucketed it down.

Next week is relatively easy, two runs and some non-impact/strength work. I'll be doing 5 miles tomorrow (Monday) and then 12 miles on Thursday after work.  That definitely won't be fun as I'm not a huge fan of doing my long runs midweek, but needs must this time.  The distances are going to start getting bigger pretty quickly now so the next 6 weeks are crucial now.

I'll finish, as always, with a mention of the fantastic work that Diabetes UK do and why I'm raising money for them.  Living with diabetes isn't an easy thing to do a lot of the time.  Having a self managed chronic illness  takes a lot out you and knowing there's someone there who can support you is an incredible help.  Diabetes UK offer that help and support to millions of people like me who need it and to say it makes actually living life easier is a huge understatement.  If you can spare anything to help me reach my £1,000 target for 2014, then please visit http:www.justgiving.com/broomhead - I'm incredibly grateful for your support.


Monday, 4 August 2014

Peas in a pod

So that’s week two out of the way and my first 20 mile week since late January/early Feb.  As usual, it had its ups and downs with a pretty good 5 miler followed up by a pretty atrocious one, all rounded off with an average 10 mile run at the weekend.


While I was out and about, it struck me how many similarities there are between running and having diabetes:


·         They’re both unpredictable.  Take my two 5 mile runs.  The first was excellent – one of the fastest I’ve done in months, and my 7thfastest time of the year.  I came back feeling really pleased and confident that I had finally started to get to a place where I could push on and start to make some serious progress.  The second of those runs a few days later was abysmal.  I’d prepared in the same way I usually do – checked my blood, had a couple of jelly babies to stop my blood going low while I was running, had a few puffs on my inhaler to help my breathing and did a few (albeit brief) stretches.  After 3 miles I was a wreck – with an aching back, pain in my left side and I couldn’t catch my breath (and worse still, my inhaler I carry with me had run out).  Now I’ve been running long enough to know things like that will happen without any obvious reason and having diabetes can be the same.  You can have one day where your blood glucose readings are pretty much ‘perfect’ and the next day, you’ll do exactly the same things, weigh your carbs out as usual and your blood glucose levels will be bouncing around between painfully high or sickeningly low.  Being able to accept that and try and again the next day is key.


·         They’re both affected by many things.   Obviously things like the terrain, route and weather will affect how you run.  Running uphill on uneven ground will definitely yield different results to running on a nice flat, even path.  Well it definitely will for me at least.  Diabetes is very similar.  Insulin absorption is affected by temperature (it absorbs faster when it’s warm) so you need to think about how your body will behave differently in the heat of summer compared to cooler days.  A lot of people with diabetes will tell you that they have more hypos in the summer.  Even the time of day has an effect on the amount of insulin you need.  Many people have different insulin to carb ratios at different times of the day and a lot of people also see a rise in blood glucose in the morning, which may mean they need more insulin first thing.  Foods with higher fat content will affect the rate at which carbohydrates are absorbed into the bloodstream which means you need to adjust the way in which you administer insulin.   Being aware of the things that are going to affect you is important.


·         They both require proper planning.   I foolishly underestimated the weather on Saturday morning as I set off for my 10 mile effort.  It was overcast and a bit breezy so I set off in a t-shirt with a litre of water, thinking I’d have some to spare by the time I got home.  After about 6 miles, the sun had broken through the clouds, it had got a lot muggier and I was rationing my water to make sure I had enough to get me through the last mile.  I got home cursing myself for not starting with an extra half a litre and a running vest.  A lot of my life is given over to planning how to manage diabetes.  I went to a wedding on Saturday night and stayed over in a nearby hotel.  Fortunately it was little over an hour away from home so I decided not to take my usual bag full of spares and supplies, but still made sure I had a couple of spare cannulas and my inserter with me just in case.  I’d refilled my pump with insulin after my run that morning so I knew I’d be OK for insulin (a full pump will last me at least 3 days).  Really I should have packed a spare vial, a couple of reservoirs for the pump, plus all the kit in case the pump failed and I had to revert to pens.  I took a chance that being relatively close to home meant I’d be able to sort it out fairly quickly if anything went seriously awry.  That said, I still forgot extra blood testing strips so had to ration them a bit.  Not great when my evening readings started to go high and I wanted to keep checking!  Prior planning will affect performance.


·         They’re both tiring.  This might be an obvious one in some sense but it’s definitely a big similarity.  Obviously running make you tired and running on a muggy summer’s morning makes you extra tired.  Thankfully my legs recovered pretty quickly after this 20 mile week.  It’ll get harder as the weekly miles increase (and I know I’ll start to feel the longer runs when they start!)  Having diabetes is quite frankly exhausting sometimes.  Not so much physically, but mentally it can take its toll.  A lot of the self-management becomes second nature after a while.  You keep your medication and supplies in the same place, you can almost test your blood without looking and inject or use a pump as a reflex.  But as I mentioned in another post I wrote for Diabetes UK, it can be difficult to switch off from diabetes.  You constantly have to consider whether you have enough insulin to get through the day, when the battery on your pump will run out, how many carbs are present in a biscuit that someone brings into work…. The list feels never ending, and having to manage all that information in your mind 24/7 takes its toll.  If you ask people with diabetes what they want more than anything, I’d wager the most popular answer to that question (besides “a cure”) would be “a day off”.  We all know what it’s like to be tired and being able to manage that as best we can is all we can do.


I could go on and on with that list, but I’ve rambled a fair bit already.  This week is supposed to be an “easy” week to let your body adapt to the training.  I’m mostly going to adhere to that philosophy but I might stick an extra run in so instead of doing 2, 4 and 5 miles, there’ll be an extra 3 miler in there to help me try and rediscover that confidence I had at the start of last week.  I can also use the shorter runs to focus on pace and the longer runs to practice holding  steady pace for longer distances.  It all depends what I can fit in really.


Finally, as always, a word about why I’m doing all this (besides the promise of a medal at the end of it all!)  I’m raising money for Diabetes UK who are the leading charity who care for and campaign on behalf of all people with diabetes in the UK.  As you may know, I’m involved in some of the work they do already by writing a monthly blog for their site as well as being chairman of the Sheffield Group of Diabetes UK.  The work the charity does benefit millions of people across the country who can struggle to manage their condition and have their voice heard when it comes to getting the appropriate level of healthcare and support.  I’ve had diabetes for 13 years and still rely a lot on the support they offer – these services are so valuable for people who have either type of diabetes, regardless of how long they’ve had it.


If you can spare anything at all, please help me try and raise £1000 ahead of the Yorkshire Marathon in October by visiting  http://www.justgiving.com/broomhead and donating whatever you can.






Monday, 28 July 2014

1 week down

Eleven weeks left to go.  I’ve done a little over 18 miles this week without any real ill effects so I think that’s probably got to be a success.  I have learned a few things so far though:


·         Training in the summer for an autumn marathon is harder than training in the winter for a spring marathon.  As you’re almost certainly aware, it is HOT out there at the moment and this has obvious impacts for anyone thinking of running middle to longer distances.  Plenty of fluids are a must so I’m lugging (at least) a litre of water around with me each time I go out.  The heat has an impact on my diabetes as well.  Insulin is absorbed more rapidly in the heat so it can lead to hypoglycaemic episodes if you’re not careful.  Basically, it means I can end up with too little sugar in my bloodstream and that can cause dizziness and disorientation – not good when you’re miles from home!


·         I am still embarrassingly overweight.  I tipped the scales at 199lbs this morning – now a good 12-14lbs heavier than I’d like to be.  This is bad for three main reasons.  Firstly there’s the unflattering sight of an overweight man in his (near) mid-30s lumbering about in a running vest.  No-one wants to see that.  Secondly, it’s obviously not good for your health to be overweight – avoiding some sort of heart attack while I’m running is fairly high up on my to-do list.  Finally, it’s a lot harder to run carrying a load of unnecessary weight.   I’ve resolved to fix this problem so hopefully I’ll be able to report a downward trend in my weight over the next few weeks.


·         I definitely need to pay more attention to warming up and cooling down.   It seems like an obvious thing to say but it’s something I tend to ignore for the most part.  A lot of that is down to time pressures.  Fitting in 3 runs a week around a job, family life and my commitments to the local Diabetes UK group mean I’m usually up against it so warming up is the thing that’s sacrificed.  I’ve felt a few twinges while I’ve been out this week and I’m going to be more diligent in doing some warming up and stretching before running now.  There’s no point in skipping on a warm up only to get injured is there?


This week will be my first 20 mile week for quite some time - at least 6 months if not longer.  I feel like I’m starting to get more mentally focused on what lies ahead of me which is good.  Towards the end of last year, I was running regularly and I felt a lot better physically than I had done for a while.  Hopefully I can drop a few pounds this week and string a few confidence boosting performances together over this week.


My ultimate target of a 4:30 marathon means I need an average mile pace of 10mins 18secs over 26.2 miles.  In 2012 I averaged 12min 35secs a mile so it’s a big challenge to come down by 2 minutes a mile.  At the moment I’m certainly in the right area (between 9:55 and 10:20 typically) but I’ve not done more than 10 miles for quite some time!  The next few weeks will be crucial I think.


Finally, another mention of the charity I’m running for.  Diabetes UK work tirelessly to support people of all ages with both Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes.  They run events across the country, offer risk assessments and support voluntary groups across the UK.  Whilst diabetes is estimated to affect around 1 in 12 people in the UK, Diabetes UK rely on donations to ensure they can continue to help people.  I’m trying to raise £1000 this year which would be enough to send two families on a Care Event weekend, allowing them to learn more about how to manage diabetes and understand the impacts it can have on family life.  If you can spare anything at all, you can donate at http://www.justgiving.com/broomhead






Tuesday, 22 July 2014

286 to go

It feels a bit strange blogging back on Hoverboards.  I know it’s been a long time since I posted here, and whilst that hiatus was never planned, life and other things got in the way.  I do still blog at least once a month over on the Diabetes UK blog site, but I somehow never found the time to come back to where it all started.  Until now.


I’ve returned to talk about a familiar theme – running.  In just under 12 weeks, I’ll be lining up at the start of my second marathon, this time in my native Yorkshire as I put myself through the mill for 26.2 miles.  I realise that blogging about marathon training is nothing new here but I’ve returned to it for a couple of reasons.  Firstly, being able to approach this race with an element of hindsight after my endeavours in London in 2012 is helpful.  Surely I’ve learned something from that process right?  Secondly, whilst some of my battles remain the same (unsurprisingly I still have type 1 diabetes, I still struggle with my weight, I still get shin splints….) some of my circumstances have also changed.


For the time being (until December at least) I’m now using an insulin pump rather than my old regime of two separate pens for injections.  Overall I think the impact on my quality of life over the last 18 months since getting the pump has been incredibly positive and I’m hoping I can transfer that into my running.  I’m also starting from a different place physically than I was before.  Last time I hadn’t run for a long time and I was starting out with one mile runs to get up to a decent level of fitness.  This time I’ve covered just over 220 miles so far this year, having done 450 miles in 2013.


I’m also being a bit more ambitious with my target this time round.  I’d desperately love to run under4:30 (knocking an hour off my London time) when October rolls around.  I know that’s incredibly aspirational but it’s good to have it in mind while I’m training.  I know I’m not built to run quickly – my frame, weight and fragile shins mean it’s pretty much impossible that I’d ever run under 4 hours so I’m setting myself a target that is potentially in reach if everything goes well over the next 3 months.  This year is also the first year that I’ll have done both a half and a full marathon in the same year.  That’s not necessarily something incredible in itself, but for an average Joe, it’s something worth celebrating.


The title for this post relates to my training plan.  All being well I’ve got 286 miles to run between now and crossing the finishing line in York on October 12th.  By the time I get to the start line, I’ll already have covered the equivalent of 19 marathons this year (although mercifully that’ll be over 9 months!)  As before, this blog will really serve two purposes.  Firstly, it’s a great way for me to document the training journey and have something to look back on that stretches beyond logging numbers in a spreadsheet.  Secondly it’s to share the highs, lows, pains and successes that doing something like this will give you.  For every race there’s countless hours of training, and for every ‘perfect’ training run there’s an equally atrocious one that makes you wonder why you bother.  Being able to communicate those highs and lows is great motivation for me.


As I do every year, I’m raising money for Diabetes UK, with this year’s target being £1000.  Following on from my half marathon exploits earlier this year, I’ve already raised £115 which is very pleasing.  I also did the Fun Run with my 4 year old daughter at this year’s Sheffield Half Marathon.  I’ll also be doing the Great Yorkshire Run in September and (hopefully) the Sheffield 10km in October too.  Whilst I run primarily for the personal challenge/satisfaction and health benefits, I try and raise money as well – mostly because I don’t know how to do it any other way.


Anyone who knows me or has the (mis)fortune to chat to me on Twitter probably knows how important Diabetes UK is to me and millions of other people with diabetes of any type.   I’ve been fortunate to have the opportunity to get personally involved with the Diabetes UK voluntary group in Sheffield and I know first-hand how much of a difference the support of others can mean to people living with diabetes every day.  If you’d like to donate, then anything you can spare will be gratefully received.  Visit http://www.justgiving.com/broomhead to make a donation.


Training starts tonight with a gentle 4.5 mile run.  The basic plan is to do three runs a week with one longer run included.  Anyone who followed my 2012 training will remember that there came a point when three runs a week became too much – I’m hoping that’s not the case this time.  My longest run so far this year is 13.2 miles but that’s all going to change in the next few weeks!


If you made it this far then thanks.  I appreciate that a blog about running and chronic illness isn’t the sexiest of combinations.  I’ll be interspersing it with the odd snippet of something else to try and keep it interesting.  Having lived in York for 10 years, I’m really looking forward to being able to do a marathon there so hopefully I’ll be here in 12 weeks’ time with a picture of a finisher’s medal as a reward.

You can find me lamenting my weight and extolling the virtues of bacon on twitter @broomowl

Take care