Run, Moony, Run

How Did I End Up Here?

Run, Moony, Run. What gives? What’s with the Forrest Gump strapline?

I will tell you an embarrassing tale. Blog readers, my loving family and my friends know that 11 months ago, I managed to have my first real cycling accident ever. I’ve ridden a bike in anger for around fifty years. Along the way, I spent some years riding time trials without incident. In my early-fifties years of despair, I gave up cycling for a few years. Signalled by a general falling out of love with life, neatly correlated with a rapidly expanding waistline and various indicators of declining cardiovascular markers. Not to mention a too-in-love relationship with alcohol, a sure-fire method of ineffectively dealing with my lifelong depression and anxiety.

But cycling found me again and was the foundation of getting into good shape again. I even stopped drinking six years ago as part of my new-found self-belief and the profound erosion of my weapons-grade self-loathing. All good. I rode the Ride London 100 cycling event a week after birthday number 66 in May 2024. The subsequent severe accident is well documented elsewhere on this blog. It sounds perverse, but I’m a more rounded, optimistic, and philosophical man after the crash.

Again, what gives?

Doubling Down

After crossing the finish line of a cycling Gran Fondo in Italy in 2017, I pulled to the curb of a rain-driven road, and as my front wheel touched a puddle, the submerged pothole stopped my front wheel dead. I couldn’t clip out of my pedal and, as a result, fell over at the blistering speed of one mile per hour. I fractured my elbow, but it was nothing a massive shot of grappa, and a few weeks of rest couldn’t remedy. Fast forward to 2023, and my first real crash happened, the result of poor riding by a rookie rider, which kicked off a chain reaction and me ending up in ICU.

Fast-forward to April 2024 and the much-anticipated ChainGangCyclists’ annual pilgrimage to Girona, where they spend five days cycling around the beautiful Catalan hills. Close to fifty of us. The second full day was a decently testing climb up to Els Angels and then a loop back into Girona.

A marvellous day on the bike. I found the drag up to the top of Els Angels testing. My fitness was not in question if the numbers were to be believed. Given my years on the clock, I think it’s simply a case of back-to-back riding days that do not agree with me as much. It’s all about the recovery after a particular birthday. Anyway, I did get to the top and went for the highly sophisticated nutritional remedy of a bottle of full-fat Coke and a Magnum ice cream.

We pressed on, and then the group thinned out, given a mechanical and two colleagues nursing injuries. Five of us left: Yannick, his brother Darren, Tee Bone and Ben. Nice group. Laid back, enjoying the day, the weather, and the camaraderie. There was another long uphill drag to come, and we made it to the top, where we met a large contingent of Irish riders on tour.

Run Moony Run. Stephen, Donna, Yannick climbing Els Angel
Run, Moony, Run. Yannick, Stephen, Darren, and Ben getting ready to sing with the Irish crew.

The lead man was well into his seventies and a bundle of energy. He had previously lived in Kilburn, London, where Yannick and Darren grew up. They swapped stories of various pubs; then he broke into a rendition of “Maybe it’s because I’m a Londoner,” and all twenty of us joined in. It was a glorious moment. Yannick and I rolled off down the hill and I mentioned what a bunch of characters they were, and that such meetings were precious. Yannick tapped the bars of my bike with his right knuckle saying, “It’s this. The bike brings together people who wouldn’t normally speak.” So true.

Down the hill, we rolled. We stopped at a cafe, drank Cacaolat milk, and absorbed the relaxed afternoon sun, Tee Bone having sport with a couple of locals. Just a handful of miles to go now, and off we rolled again, Yannick and Darren up front, then me, and Ben and Tee Bone behind.

Down a steepish hill, and I could see Darren and Yannick curving right over a bridge. Almost home.

This Isn’t Happening

I swept right onto the bridge and got on the brakes, as I could see a speed bump towards the end of the bridge. Over the hump, the road surface pitted and cratered on the other side. My front went into a pothole and suddenly my handlebars snapped hard left. Hard.

I knew I was off. There was no other option. A strange thing happened in my lizard brain. When I crashed 11 months earlier, in a split second before impact, I saw two bikes flat on the ground and was able to make a tiny adjustment to try and bisect them. It didn’t work because I hit a downed rider, but it did give me a tiny advantage in that I hit the ground with my shoulder rather than face-first.

The odd thing was that the incident was recorded by my on-bike GoPro, and while one bike was flat on the ground, together with its rider, the other bike was still upright and cut across the front of me. Indeed, this second bike went on its way. But the microsecond of high stakes reaction led to my brain think it had seen something else.

11 months on my bars snapped hard left. In the peripheral vision of my left eye, I saw another bike flat on the ground, some yards away from me. Yet it wasn’t there. Something had registered incorrectly in my brain in 2023, and 2024 drew on that and presented me with a similar and imaginary optical illusion.

I don’t remember hitting the ground. The next thing I remember was waking up and being aware I was on the ground, and the fingers of my right hand in front of my face, and they were pouring blood. I had crashed, yet my brain wasn’t accepting that; I thought it was a dream about my previous accident. I remember saying, “I’m not doing this again. This isn’t happening.” I felt sleepy and thought I would settle down and nap.

Stay With Me Bro

Yannick could see something different. My helmet split and blood poured from a head wound. I had brown fluid coming from my nose. Blood was coming from somewhere else, too. This was clear to Yannick as he was kneeling a pool of blood. “Stay with me, bro” I remember him saying, while I was stubbornly trying to nod off. I could really use some sleep, and in any case I was in no mood to keep dreaming about an old accident.

Next, a Spanish man leaning over me asked, “What’s your name?” and led me through some questions. Could I feel my hands? My feet? It was all good. He was a fireman; they were first on the scene. It felt like a rapid response, but I wasn’t clear how long the nap I had treated myself to had been.

I’m moving into an ambulance now. My last year has told me it will hurt like hell when a slide board comes out. I was in the ambulance but was starting to become disoriented and panic-stricken. Something in my ass was killing me, something felt stuck in my right buttock. And I began to get thigh and calf cramps badly. The medical staff placed an odd covering on my pelvis. I feel my pelvis being compressed, and I am sitting in a box.

I’m a seriously claustrophobic man. Any confined space and even any restriction to my movement causes waves of panic. That was starting to happen to me now, and I was moaning and bleating to anyone who would listen. Later, my record showed that I was given Fentanyl at this point to help manage my anxiety.

Trauma Unit

I was moved into a trauma unit in Girona Hospital. It was all a bit fragmented now. I remember a CAT scan machine and me still complaining about confined spaces and a medic assuring me it wasn’t really enclosed. The same guy pulling at my fingers on my right hand. I thought I was watching a cartoon as the little finger emerged joint by joint from my hand. My ass was still hurting, and I couldn’t figure out why. It turned out that I had damaged an artery in my pelvic region, hence the pain, and the reason for the tight compression in the ambulance.

An endless period of X-rays, and I pondered how much radiation a man can absorb in a year. Then, in the morning, I moved to a trauma ward—a small, narrow bed in a metal frame with a handle hanging down. The ward was tiny and dark. I strongly felt that I had gone back in time, certainly to the mid-20th century. My spirit was down. I was not helped by the old guy in the bed next to me, randomly rambling all night. It only got bizarre when he started holding both sides of a conversation, with the second actor in the play being a woman. Him flipping nimbly between male and female voices. Fuck me.

This was properly miserable. Tiny cramped ward, no sight of the outside world, tiny bed with my feet sticking out of the end. My lack of language skills not helping my situation at all. And to add insult to injury, my injuries hurt. The bruising was next level. I’ll spare you the sight of my flabby white ass and show you the rear of my right leg; now imagine the bruising going all the way around the front of the leg, up my pelvis, up my ribcage and into my armpit and then shoulder. Serious bruising.

Run, Moony, Run. Serious bruising.

A couple of nights in, my spirits were low. I chatted with myself about this being my feelings and that they would pass. That line of thought did help, to my surprise, as I wasn’t saying it or hearing it with much conviction. Maybe I should have had my roommate put the case to me, given his stagecraft.

It’s All About People

The medics were superb. We got through in fractured English and sign language, and I felt well cared for. Regardless of the organisation, buildings, and systems, healthcare attracts compassionate humans to lead the broken through their journey. A couple of the service staff were deliberately awful. I found out later that there was some local backlash against tourists, and I can only assume this is what drove some needlessly unhelpful and borderline aggressive behaviour by some of the service staff.

This latter issue wasn’t a big deal. If you think British NHS hospital food is terrible, you must understand there is a next level to plumb. I checked to see I hadn’t been sent to a Russian prison at one stage, so poor was the food. But help was at hand. My rambling roommate was transferred to another hospital and he was replaced by Mohammed, who was in for a knee replacement. His children, daughters in law and grandchildren all attended the ward for hours. They clocked the behaviour towards me, and as a result started sliding food to me that had been brought for Mohammed. The next morning, breakfast was brought in for me by Mohammed’s family. Don’t you just love humans?

The Great Escape

Mo’s Family Food notwithstanding, I had enough after five days and told the doctor I wanted to leave. 24 hours on oral painkillers rather than the intravenous stuff I had been receiving, and I’m free to go. “Deal!” seemed to translate, and I was out of there on day six. We planned to head to our hotel and hang out for a few days. Even the short bus ride to the town centre was a test. Why a bus? I couldn’t bend to get into a car.

It was a short walk from the bus—a steep, short walk. I’ll be honest: The pain and crushing sense of fatigue brought me close to tears. This happened again the next day and the next. I found myself seriously short of reserves. But so glad to be out of my small hospital room.

Two days later, we headed for the airport in a taxi, with me having consumed as much Tramadol as I was allowed, along with OTC painkillers. At the airport, I got a ride to the gate on one of those electric trolleys and was boarded first. Trust me, that was a low point in my life, on the chosen vehicle of the centenarians and terminally unwell. Is this it? The decline? All down hill from here, hearing aids, incontinence pads, and a permanently confused air about me.

Run, Moony, Run. Me escaping from hospital in Girona.


My last accident put my wife, Mish, through a lot. Too much. When someone has a severe life event, they are immediately surrounded by professionals and friends who are swarming to help and support. Somewhere on the periphery of this melee tends to be a loving partner overwhelmed by worry and anxiety. I know my first accident took a toll on her, and even months later, it was evident. Small things such as anxiety about whether my Garmin tracker came on at the start of a ride, for example.

I was pulled out of the ambulance at Girona, and I heard Mish shriek and saw her move towards me. The primal sound was enough for me. My cycling days are over. I knew when I was lying on the road, and it was finalised when I heard Mish’s reaction to the sight of me seriously injured slightly less than a year after the last major off.

The bike has been a significant part of my life, where a lot of solace has been found and where I have reflected and sorted tangled thoughts and emotions a thousand times. A solitary pursuit for most of my millions of pedal strokes, it has, in the post-COVID become central to my personal life, with a broad range of friends made.

Cycling has possibly saved my life by giving me the space to straighten my anxious thoughts. And it has more than likely been a significant reason the cardiovascular killing fields of the fifty-something Western male didn’t consume me.

Strangely, I wouldn’t hesitate to ride a bike again. But I’m not putting Mish through that anxiety for another second. And while I will miss those glory days on the road with friends, the bikes are up for sale. Run, Moony, Run was already forming in a dark corner of my mind.

Silly Old Fool

I went through a ‘people think I’m a silly old fool who isn’t fit to be on the road’ week. This thought will revisit me; it has already left its calling card. I’m getting ready to turn 67 years old and am what you would call an outlier in any cycling group. Age, height, and weight make me an unusual cycling specimen. I have never once contemplated slowing down my exercise regime. Indeed, I foresaw myself cycling into my eighties. There is an increasing body of science illustrating the health and longevity benefits of exercise, and cycling is an excellent cardiovascular exercise form.

Being caught in a cascade of bikes falling in Ride London last year didn’t raise a question; there was nothing I could have done. This time, only a rough piece of tarmac and I were involved. Was it an error? Is he too old for this? After all, two accidents in less than a year can’t be a coincidence. Embarrassment and shame have been close companions these last couple of weeks. My long experience on the bike and spotless safety record were a source of quiet pride. As was my fitness, I was never at the front of the pack, but you could never drop me either, even when I was giving up decades in age and many pounds.

This silly old fool phenomenon has been hanging around for a while, waiting for an excuse to leap out with a ‘told you so’ smirk on its face.

I come from a family and background where sport and exercise were not part of our lives. I’m naturally crap at sports too. Yet, a constant thread in my life has been my stubborn application. I am not even average as an athlete. At school, I used to drift around at the rear of the various humiliations of the playing fields. But I would always put the effort in, and eventually, a result would come. A miracle performance at the cross-country trials, completely against the form book. Forcing my way onto the rugby team through sheer effort when the naturally talented ones were slacking.

And it has happened to me in life. I remain an average athlete at best. But here’s the secret: I’m still here. By staying in the game, I have become measurably very fit for my age. My VO2—now seen as the gold standard for healthy ageing—is in the top 10% for my age. I hold some Strava records for my cycling efforts. HRV is outstanding for my age group. I’m a silly old fool and will continue to be so. Playing golf and having a massive beer gut and diabetes legs hasn’t appealed to me much.

You have to be in the game to get near to the podium. So stick in there and good things will happen.


It took me a while to get into the UK healthcare system. On the day of the accident, I had transferred from my old company healthcare to my new personal policy. The healthcare company wanted to know if any of the issues were preexisting; therefore, a GP letter was requested. The problem is the two-week lead time to see my GP. I hurt today, so I called NHS 111 and was told to attend a local hospital for an 8 p.m. appointment. On arrival, it was 8 pm to join a six-hour queue to see someone. After two hours my ribs would take no more and I went home.

The last 11 months have shown me the best and worst of the NHS. Superbly professional medical staff, and a horrible feeling that the blob of bureaucracy is strangling the service. I’m not on board with the ‘blame the Tories’ campaign; the raw facts on investment over an extended period show the problem has been compounding for a long time.

My Google-translated hospital report eventually persuaded the healthcare provider to do the right thing, and the past days have been a whirl of consultant appointments and tests. The have-and-have-not gap is brutally illustrated by the contrast in the quality of service I experienced at both ends of the spectrum this last week.

Next week, I have an operation to insert titanium into my collarbone and scapula and also to remove some bone fragments from the latter area. I am also experiencing some balance issues; therefore, further neurological investigations are underway. This latter issue sounds scary, but is under control. The worst case is medication to manage blood flow for a few weeks.

It could have been much worse. I consider myself lucky. Enjoy life, my friends, as none of us know what’s around the corner.

Run, Moony, Run

Where next? I was due to start my New York Marathon training immediately upon arriving home from Girona. That’s now been delayed, particularly given I have shoulder and collarbone surgery next week. Being realistic, even gentle running can only be contemplated at the beginning of July, and that only gives me four months to prepare. This was always going to be a tough mission, what with arthritic inflammation being a part of my post-run pain medley, and my lack of serious running miles in my life.

Wise heads around me are telling me to take my time on recovery, and if the marathon has to be deferred to next year, then so be it. Don’t you hate rational and well-balanced people? I’m here in a festering mess of self-doubt, believing with every ounce of my being that if I don’t do the marathon, then no goals will mean no exercise, will mean declining health, and an inevitable spiral into an infirm old age. As an aside, I have another handy scenario that fuelled my professional career, where I end up broke and living under a bridge. I can do a doom-laden inner script to get my ass out of bed, it’s a winning characteristic.

I like to declare my goals early and let people know. That brings a sense of accountability and makes the (cycle) wheels turn—or, in this case, the running shoes. Given my serious accident, the 2023 goals were blown out of the water. With my Girona accident, 2024 could well go the same way. So what? The what? Having nothing to aim for risks apathy creep up on me. I fear nothingness. I fear a gradual drift into inactivity and a shrinking life. Maybe that’s what ageing becomes, but I’m buggered if I’m going quietly. Wear out, don’t rust out. Don’t go quietly into the night. Because it will be night for more than long enough.

That fear and the needs of others brought #runmoonyrun onto my radar.

Run, Moony, Run

Completing a marathon is a massive challenge for me. It’s a misogi level, and my chances of achieving it are less than 50%. My current travails make the challenge even more demanding. But my challenges are nothing compared to what others face. We can tend to get self-absorbed in our challenges and not see the immense life and health challenges others face daily. So, I decided to shift the playing field rather than moan and pre-script excuses for not doing a marathon. I’ll do the marathon and raise some cash to support others.

Let me get it off my chest now. I’m done with professional victims telling me their problems on social media. That’s not me being a grumpy old man; it’s me saying open your eyes. Be aware of the social, economic and medical pain people go through daily, with no end. I’m a fortunate man who has had a little bad luck. Life is unfair; no one handed us a quality charter at birth that said, ‘Life will be golden. ‘ It’s not fair, and we use our best individual and collective capabilities to navigate life. But for millions, life is not fair. Use some perspective big boy, and count your blessings. A loving partner, great friends, economic independence, good health, etc. Don’t pathologise your every down day in order to accrue social media likes. Enjoy the journey.

A good friend of mine is dealing with cancer at present. One of the last people you would imagine, and an outlier for the form of cancer in age terms. If they and their loving family can suffer this, then there is more to do when it comes to cancer research. Another great friend of more than thirty years beat cancer and sadly died of MND this week. Over the years, two terrific friends have suffered the same cancer my friend is currently dealing with. One died, and one continues to move forward while managing the symptoms. We have made massive strides in the battle against cancer in recent years. But it still brings pain and destruction to countless people and their families every year. There’s my #runmoonyrun cause: to raise money for cancer research.

You’re Kidding, Right?

Haven’t run for 25 years. Tick. Haven’t run close to a marathon in my life. Tick. Moderate arthritis in both knees. Tick. 67 years old on the day of the New York Marathon. Tick. 6’5″ and 235 pounds. Tick. Recovering from multiple fractures. Tick. Extremely low fitness level, given the last item. Tick.

These are perfect conditions for me to launch my #runmoonyrun venture. Let’s raise some money for excellent causes. What’s the best that can happen? – I cross the line, arms over my head, the Rocky theme playing. The middle option? – I walk, run, walk, and get around in six hours, but the job gets done, and I quietly hum the Rocky theme to myself as I cross the line. The worst option? – I run out of training time and defer my fundraising run to London 2025 or New York 2025. I see the middle option as most likely, And even that messy failure delivers my misogi for 2024.

Next week, I have an operation to plate my collarbone and shoulder blade. Six weeks to recover takes me to the start of July. Then I have four clear months to get marathon fit. It’s a tough one. But what the hell else will I do with my spare time?

On the positive side, my old employer Science in Sport has agreed to be my nutrition sponsor for the marathon. Will they regret having such an atypical ambassador on their books? I don’t know the answer to that, but I am very grateful and I know nutrition before, during, and after every training session will be key. The older one gets, the more important nutrition becomes. I have been using daily turmeric shots from Thomas Robson-Kanu’s The Turmeric Co. range for three months, which has helped reduce some of the inflammation in my knees. Thomas has kindly offered to supply me with turmeric shots through my training. Again, this is crucial – the science behind turmeric is very sound, and these products will be essential to get me to the start line.

The fundraising page will appear in September, and I’ll come round with the hat. You are warned. In the meantime –


3 thoughts on “Run, Moony, Run”

  1. Wow Stephen, you have always in the short period of time I’ve known you been a huge source of inspiration, everything that happens you bounce forward with a new outlook. Since moving from London to the US, I’ve fallen away from the bike (work/time excuses a plenty), fallen back into my depression, and had two health scares… and of course I’m cruising towards my mid 50’s … as always your writing provides a swift kick up the butt to me so thank you for always writing so openly …. I was following Girona Instagram coverage but totally did not see anything about your crash, I’m glad you are healing. Very much miss all of the CGC folks that I know I never spoke to enough on our rides (comes from a place of incredible shyness and self doubt).

  2. #runmoonyrun

    Always such a positive outlook on any situation thrown at you Sir. A pretty serious incident, which you have charged through, no doubt due to solid health & fitness. Kudos to you and whilst this blog brings back the memories, it’s also kicking off the new chapter of 1st’s. You can do this Marathon whether this or next year and I look forward to joining some training runs with you too my friend..



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