What to do with old running shoes

People that run, usually have countless pairs of old running shoes kicking around the house. As they wear out and the cushioning starts to compress, we downgrade them; they go from the training pair on hard surfaces, down to a wet weather pair, then down to a short trail run pair. They may even become gardening or painting shoes, for some people.

The main problem though, is what to do with them next. I have donated mine for dogs to chew on, I have donated several pairs to the opportunity shop. I have also put mine in a running shoe, recycling bin, but I have also sadly thrown a lot in the garbage.

About seven years ago, I was just about to throw a pair of Asics out, when those little stripes on the side started talking to me. I pulled out a pair of scissors and a utility knife, and simply cut along the stripes. I used scissors to cut the fabric, then a utility knife to slice around the heel box. I threw the insole away and cut the tongue down. I shortened the laces, seeing there are less holes and after only fifteen minutes, I had a pair of Ruppers. This is what I call my runner/slipper, hybrid.

They are so comfy and practical, just perfect for nipping outside to the rubbish bins or washing line. They are also very durable- my last pair lasted for seven years as Ruppers. They are smart enough to leave on, when you are half way to work, and you realise that you still have your slippers on- you will get away with it, in a pair of ruppers.

You can see from the photos, that Adidas are also made to convert into Ruppers easily- you just simply cut along that second stripe.  I am sure that other brands will be easy to convert as well.

I can highly recommend giving this recycling idea a go, plus some people pay quite a lot of money for slip on shoes like these. My wife asked me to whip up a pair for her today, and the rupper family looks at home on the door step.

I’d like to thank and apologise to Asics and their Tiger stripes, for the initial inspiration.

Boosting your immune system

In the news this week, is the germ debate; ‘Is dirt good for kids? – Are parents keeping things too clean for the good of their own kids?’

Television commercials are showing schools, kindergartens, child care centres and the family home, disinfecting every nook and cranny, kitchen bench, toilet, bathroom, kids’ toys, even the grandparents… is never ending. The next thing will be a disinfectant additive, that kids will have to drink.

So that is one side, but the other side is a bit dirtier. There is now the argument that kids may need to be exposed to more pathogens to boost their immune systems. According to the latest research, kids really need to be allowed to put everything in their mouths, no matter how dirty it is.  I agree.

I also have been suffering from a compromised immune system and seem to be sidelined with a respiratory illness each year. I am putting it down to the fact that I’m obviously not eating enough dirt. So it must be time to change and what a perfect business opportunity is in front of me.

Hitting the shelves in supermarkets this week, will be my modest, initial range of bags of dirt. So instead of your kids being tempted by candy and gum at the checkout, they will be screaming and crying so they can have a small packet of Run with Alan, immune system boosters. If your kids haven’t been playing in the creche sandpit, or crawling through the back garden, putting everything in sight in their mouths, then this is will fill the pathogen void. Parents should have no qualms about buying a packet of this natural product.

Just check out the range below, along with the tasting notes.


Feline sandpit surprise

Brilliant pale tan colour with a slight tinge of brown around the crusty edge. The nose opens with an intense whiff of wet nappies, biscuits, and Vicks VapoRub, followed by subtle vomit and runny nose, end notes. Fine and smooth but at the same time fresh, the palate delivers generous flavours of silica mixed in with quartz.  The occasional chewy feline treat, finishes with very good length with a long aftertaste of sardines, moths and mice.
Eat over the next 4-5 months.
Pathogen rating 75


Chunky clay chews

Rich gold colour with gold straw hue. Top note of mustiness, followed by wet cardboard over a layer of camping toilet. The palate has excellent weight, with flavours of cicadas and scrub worms over a background of tree roots and underground water, followed by a layer of topsoil. Clean acid finish. Long aftertaste of scrub worm, camping toilet, and trees roots.
Cellar 3-4 years
Pathogen rating 87


Organic garden delight

Totally opaque inky black red colour with a deep purple red hue. Contains an addition of compost to provide extra depth, flavour and colour. Lifted seaweed solution and snail beer trap aromas are followed by some light scorched earth and decomposing vegetable matter confectionary. Rich succulent worm castings and manure flavours fill the mouth over a back drop of scorched earth, grey water and pea straw. Slightly crispy egg shell tannins impart some dryness on the finish.
Cellar 1-2 years.
Pathogen rating 95

More of my two worlds.

I was asked to replace a timber floor on a verandah, for some friends. The demolition is always fun and as expected, I uncovered old bottles and cans, a dead cat, a rat’s rest with a hundred empty snail shells, and not to mention spiders and cobwebs, that hadn’t seen daylight for fifty years. I replaced the bearers and joists and all I was waiting for, was my delivery of beautiful, jarrah floorboards.

It was also my mother in law’s eighty-seventh birthday and I said that I would make a cake. I decided on an Opera Gateaux, knowing that she would find it delicious. I had only made a boiled fruitcake before, but how hard could it be?  All you have to do, is follow a recipe.

I whisked the egg whites to firm peaks, then folded them into the cake mixture. After baking my sponge, it cooled and I carefully cut it into three thin layers. I boiled the butter cream for five minutes until it was thick and sticky, then whisked in the egg yolks until it was thick and cool. I was preparing the ganache; gently melting the chocolate, as the milk came to the boil. I was slowly combining the melted chocolate to the hot milk, when the phone rang….

“Hello, it’s Alan speaking” as I kept stirring.

“Yeah g’day mate, it’s Johno from the timber yard, I gotcha floorin’ here mate, where’d ya wannit?” announces my timber delivery courier.

“If you could wang it on the right side of the drive mate, just don’t ding the house with ya truck, then shut the gate after you, that’d be ace” I said in my building site voice, as I prepare to fold the cream into my chocolate mixture.

“No sweat knackers, too easy, is there anything else I need to do?” asks Johno

“Well I’m just making a ganache, for an Opera Gateaux and do you think I need to let the chocolate mixture cool down, before I fold the cream in, just in case it might curdle?” I ask

“Yer what? Building a garage for Nick Gato? Whatever….yer floorin’s dropped off mate….av a good one”

I think I only just got away with that one.

My two worlds

Some of us live in different worlds, just like me. As some of you know, I have spent forty years in the building industry, with an overlap in the last ten years, mostly working as a running coach/fitness instructor. I grew up in the building industry, I left school at 16 and was taught how to lay bricks. Some might say it was back in the ‘good ole days’, which I agree. It was also a bit like the wild west; with my tradie mates and I, talking shootin’ and fishin’ stories at morning tea time. Sometimes if we were working in the outer suburbs, someone would pull out a rifle and we would all be taking it in turns, shooting at tin cans; these were great times. At the same time, I was also interested in the arts, which would make for controversial chat, when thrown in occasionally, with the hunting stories.

One of my good carpenter mates’ dad, even pulled up at work one day all excited. He opened up the back of the station wagon and showed us the two rabbits and two ducks that he had shot on the way to work. The rabbits were asking for it, sitting in the middle of an open paddock on the side of the Yarra Glen road. The ducks however, thought they were safe, flying low, up the centre of a main road, just out of Ringwood- a popular, built up shopping area. Our skilled hunter followed them up the road in the station wagon, hoping they would land again, which they did, in a puddle on the side of the road. All it took, was careful adjusting of the side mirror of the station wagon, to make sure no traffic was coming from behind, as our hunter, shot the two ducks swimming in the puddle, with his silenced, rifle. So even forty years ago, checking the mirror and using a silencer, outlined that safety was still a priority.  I was in the company of good men.

So now I live in two different worlds, with two different languages and even dress codes. Once I finish with my run coaching business in the morning, I need to change into my building clothes immediately. It isn’t that I feel any comfier in a pair of Blundstone boots, which I actually do, seeing I have been wearing them for forty years, but it is the respect you get, dealing with other trades and trade stores, at a different level. Don’t get me wrong here, I am happy in both of these camps, whereas, some people, might just be a bit out of place.

Sometimes it’s all in the way you present yourself.

A few weeks ago, I went with my wife and her sisters to the ballet; The Nederlands dans theatre. It was fabulous and we all enjoyed it immensely.

In the morning after running group, I changed into my building clothes as I was off to the garbage transfer station. I had a redundant mattress from my mother-in-law, which needed to be disposed of. I pulled up at the gate keepers pay station and leap out of the truck. As the Hi-Vis clad, donut carrying, Neanderthal comes out of the shed, I scratch my nuts and say “hey Shags, how they hanging?”

He scratches his, as part of the ritual, and replies ‘Nor bad mate, whadya know?’

I thought this was the perfect opportunity to tell him how I really enjoyed the fluidity of the main troupe, in the second act, at the ballet last night. How I was mesmerised when the seven of them, morphed into an organic knot at the end, that beautiful image, will stay with me forever.

He finishes eating his donut, looks me straight in the eye and says ‘$20 to dump the mattress ballet boy, it’s the bin next to the rubble’

Success again; I love these different worlds I live in

The funniest volcano climb ever

Volcan Galeras is in Pasto, Colombia. It is 4276m above sea level and yes, we know that it is in the top ten volcanoes in the world, expected to erupt.

We also know that the road is closed with a checkpoint that only allows authorized personnel into the area.

We also know that volcanoes blow huge rocks out of them, as big as cars at times, not to mention the really hot lava that burns you to a crisp.

We also know that it is really naughty to bypass the checkpoint to climb the volcano.

So at 5.30am, we got out of the taxi in the pitch dark, in a small town on the flanks of Galeras and started the climb. Everything was going well, once the sun came up, so we could see where we were going. We crawled under barbed wire fences, crawled over the long grasses, leapt over more fences, walked through freshly ploughed fields, walked past the cows being milked-only to be bailed up by the cattle dogs. Cattle rustling is alive and well in Colombia, so these dogs were the equivalent of the bouncers outside a night club. They even had numbers on their chests.

We walked briefly on the Camino Real, which is a cobbled road we hear was made by the Spanish, then after another two hours, we hit the road that we shouldn´t have been on. After another hour of walking with magnificent views, we took a break on a hairpin bend with no cover. Squirrel was taking a toilet break standing out in the open when he yelled out,

“Hide Studley…a motorbike!!” The bike was twenty metres away, Squirrel was standing out in the open, watering the plants and I was left with nowhere to hide. I just ran around in circles and amongst my mad panic, I think I put my hands over my eyes, so no one could see me. We had been sprung.

Squirrel explained to the motorcyclist that we were actually on the old Spanish road and we were looking at the flora. The guy on the bike was a technician for the television antennas on top and said that we weren’t on the old Spanish road. He added that no one should be on this particular road. We pretended to be two lost gringos and the guy obviously could see by my pathetic hiding techniques, that we were pure amateurs. He rode off telling Squirrel that he hadn´t seen a thing. He also told us that a guy had actually died, fifteen days ago on the volcano. It was a good job that we were only just looking at the flowers, because volcanoes are obviously very dangerous.

We hit the top after five hours, but we were in the cloud and we couldn´t see the crater. After we had lunch, the cloud cleared and we had three minutes of the most fabulous views of the cone inside the crater, we could even see footprints on the edge of the cone-maybe this was where the guy had died. The building on top had been destroyed by eruptions, with giant rocks – the size of bean-bags, just punching holes through the concrete roof; it was like a battle ground. After marvelling at Mother Nature, we started our descent.

After one hour it started to warm up, so we decided to take off our cold weather gear. Squirrel again, was in an unfortunate position squatting on the ground wrestling with his tights and pants around his ankles, when he yells out again “another motorbike hide!!” We crawled behind a big rock, Squirrel still trying to pull his pants up, I looked from around the back of the rock and I see a truck with three guys standing on the road. We decided to try and have another go at hiding again, but Squirrel stuck his head up to have a look and one of the guys was looking straight at him-we were sprung again. Like naughty little boys we walked out into the open to be confronted by three guys out of the truck. One was holding a handgun, one had a camera and the other had a really nasty moustache. There was one still in the truck behind the tinted windows, so it was a little unnerving.

They asked us what we were doing and where we were from. “Australia and Canada,” we said, one couldn´t possibly go wrong with that. They wanted to see our passports, we didn´t have them with us- in case of a robbery. Squirrel had to hit them with the story that we were avid flower watchers and we were lost again and we would have never dreamed of going to the top of the volcano.

Pity, confusion, total bafflement, who knows? They just told us to get out of there, “Go” they snapped, waving the gun with the finger still on the trigger. After an unfortunate incident like this, one checks that you still have your life, that all your limbs are still attached, passport, camera and money are still part of your travel kit, and then it usually makes a great story two weeks later. I told Squirrel that I was concerned that things come in threes and expected a welcoming party before we got off the banned road. We made it though, it was great feeling to go running down into the bush and paddocks, even the psycho cattle dogs were having a siesta. We finally hit a dirt road at the bottom and didn´t know which way to go, but we finally decided on a direction and were pleased to hear the sound of a truck coming so we could hitch a lift to town.

Things really do come in threes and by the look of the nasty moustache behind the tinted windows, on a familiar looking truck, we knew we were in trouble again. Yet, just like on television, some things really do have a happy ending. The tinted window lowers two inches and we see the guy give us the nod to jump in the back. We couldn’t believe it, plus we had totally exhausted all of our hiding combinations, so we just jumped in the back. On the way down, we decided that if they weren´t going to stop, then we would just jump out. I had seen people do it on television and I was feeling quietly confident that we could do it too. They didn´t take us to the police, they didn´t rob us, Squirrel tapped on the window and they even stopped for us. By this time, I had found a really good hiding spot in the back and didn´t want to go, but Squirrel coaxed me out.

In the end, we found out that they were military police protecting the television antennas, this is why the road is probably closed along with the fact that there is an active volcano up there too. The motorbike guy would have called them and told them that we were there, which is fair I think.

But what a fabulous day, we saw some fabulous scenery, an incredible active volcano and some wild weather. The technician and the military police saw some ridiculous hiding attempts, listened to some massive lies. I just don´t know who is laughing the most-it was a ton of fun for everyone.

I just love this country.

¡Viva Colombia!

How to stay warm in winter

We haven’t even started winter yet, but people are already complaining about the cold weather. Yes, it is almost winter and yes, it is Melbourne. So, as I see it, there are two ways to stay warm in winter.

1: Become a squirrel or

2: Run with Alan.

How does a squirrel survive in a cold, harsh Northern Winter? They do this in several ways. Squirrels prepare for winter by bulking up. Throughout fall/autumn, they maximize food consumption and body mass. In winter, when food is hard to come by, these reserves help them survive. The extra layer of fat will also keep them warm. They will also grow a thicker, warmer fur coat. If they get really cold, they will automatically shiver, which generates a lot of heat in a squirrel, which in turn, warms them up. Then if things get icy cold, they will all sleep together in a huge group, to benefit from the warm, thermal mass.

How would we go, living like a squirrel? In order to bulk up, would we eat donuts all day long in autumn? Would our extra 25kg of body weight keep us warmer, could we live off that fat, just lying on the couch in winter? Would we have to buy a pair of XXXL track pants to accommodate the new food baby? Would we have to postpone a haircut and our other preferred methods of bodily hair removal, just to achieve a warm, organic furry insulation layer?  Would we just stand in the lounge room, whilst resembling the wild man of Borneo, in our XXXL track pants, shivering just to keep warm? If it got really cold at night, would we take our loved ones and knock on the neighbour’s door and ask them if you can sleep with them, because we were cold?

Humans are not good at living like a squirrel.

An easier, more socially acceptable way to keep warm is to run. This morning at our 6am run group, it was cold. Chris told us that it was zero with the wind chill; that Antarctic wind just cuts right through you. Everybody rolled up, all dressed for a Polar expedition. There were parkas, gloves, beanies and scarves. Chris’ huskies were a nice touch; I also liked the satellite  navigation on the sled. It wasn’t long before the layers stared to peel off. After the warm up and run throughs; the runners were down to their t-shirts – and shorts, for some of the less adventurous. After the main set, there was sweat, steam and a lot of smiles. It was still chilly at 9.30am for the second group, even with the sun being out. After 15 minutes, the layers were coming off and I had a pile of clothes that you only ever see at the clothes drop at a brotherhood bin. Same deal at the end; sweat and smiles all round. Everyone was toasty warm and very happy.

Runners will tell you that this warmth will last all day long. It warms you to the core. It warms you physically and psychologically. You make the effort, you do the hard work, then you are rewarded with a huge endorphin rush and it lasts for ages. Then you jump on a train or bus to go to work on that frosty morning and you are confronted by a hairy, fur-clad bunch of people shivering en masse, huddled in a group to keep warm, with subtle, donut aromatic undertones.

So, when it comes to keeping warm, it really just comes down to choice.

I know which choice I will make and it doesn’t smell of donuts.

Dear Dog Fancy

Dogs, like everything else, have magazines dedicated to them. There is one called Dog Fancy and it even has a centrefold of a dog; I kid you not. I was reading it in the vet clinic waiting room and it did make me think of a dog writing in to the editor……..

Dear Dog Fancy,

Let me tell you about the new man in my life; he’s a real terrier. I met him at obedience school on a cold, Sunday morning. He had a name tag around his neck and his name was Bob. He was wearing a little tartan coat and looked just like a thermos flask. He trotted over to me and said “What’s that perfume you are wearing? It’s lovely.”

I said thank you, I rolled in it this morning.

He was quite forward and asked me back to his place the following day. I trotted around to his house it wasn’t long before we were standing in Bob’s basket, sniffing each other. He then asked me before we go any further, what precautions had I taken. I told him that I had an IUD: An internal uterine deficiency; I had been spayed. He said that he had year round protection as well, as he was wearing a long life flea collar. Then things got really hot and we made love; doggy style. We did it everywhere: in his basket, in the lounge room and in the kitchen, with our nails making that little tippy-toe sound on the ceramic tile floor. We did it in the park and in the shopping centre. We did it at the local primary school, at the morning general assembly; in front of the preps and the grade ones. It wasn’t until the principal threw a bucket of cold water over us, did it put an end to our erotic frenzy. I just lay there exhausted, while Bob licked his bits. Then all his mates came over, sniffed his genitals and asked him what I was like. He said I was a real bitch.

What shall I do? I love him so much.


Safety at home

Sometimes I feel the OH &S rules get a bit out of control. There seems to be warning signs everywhere, flashing lights and fluro mesh screens. This over supply of signage desensitises people and they aren’t aware of possible dangers.

Then it comes to trampolines and now we have to have safety fences around them. Sure no one wants to break a neck, but you need to be aware of possible dangers and take some responsibility yourself. If you do happen to have an accident, don’t try and blame or sue someone else.

So in Ballarat on the weekend, just around the corner from my in-laws, I saw this excellent example of parents making the kids concentrate and be aware of possible dangers whilst trampolining. This trampoline is in the front yard of a single fronted terrace house. The kids come straight out the front door and on to the trampoline. As you can see from the spires on the fence, the kids have to really stay focussed and in the centre of the trampoline.

This is just like the good ole days; toughening up your kids. I do have visions of a little kid speared on the top of the fence, just like someone collecting insects and pinning them to a display board.

We need more of this


A city slicker in the country

My wife Lib has had a hard year, she is tired, stressed and hasn’t had a good laugh for quite a while. So we are in Bright for five days of cycling, walking, running, eating and drinking. This should help Lib chill out, as it is our way of relaxing. Because as some of you know, I sometimes think relaxing, is the new lazy.

We have rented a little cabin on the river, it is all we need; walking distance to town, so we don’t need the car.

I have brought my little coffee pot with me, so I don’t have to buy coffees all the time. The trouble is, the trivets on the stove are too big and my little coffee pot keeps falling over. I tried using the rack from the grill, but it wasn’t made for direct heat and it ended up looking like one of those wire puzzles that you had to undo as kids. So we went to the shops and I bought a diffuser. It didn’t melt or warp, which was a good thing, but it diffused too much heat and it took twenty minutes to boil one teeny weeny, shot of coffee. Seeing that was too wasteful, we went back down the street to a different store: the camping store.

We walked past the camouflage hunting gear, the inflatable dinghies and the solar powered GPS, fish finders.

The woman being served at the counter before me, was telling the shop owner about the timber worker that was fatally bitten on the arm by a deadly snake near Orbost. She said it was tragic, but what can you do? The owner agreed as he took another bite out of his beef jerky.

I sidled up to the counter and said;

“Hi, my little coffee pot is too little for the stove and keeps falling over. Do you have a little rack that would help it balance? ”

I thought it was a fair query.

I heard Lib burst into laughter, pointing and yelling “what a wanker” as she fell backwards into the inflatable dinghies. The owner coughed up one bit of beef jerky and a smaller piece blew out of his nose.

He was obviously a caring, sensitive gentleman at heart, as he did show concern as Lib was in fits of laughter, all tangled up in the inflatables dinghies. Even more so, as the increase in static electricity had set off the fish finders. We pulled Lib out, turned off the fish finders and waited until she stopped laughing. I tried to explain about my little coffee pot and the big trivets again, but it was no good. Lib dragged me from the shop laughing her head off.

She said it sounded so funny; the little city slicker with his own little coffee pot asking for help in a hunting and fishing, Rambo style shop.

I’m glad I’ve made her laugh.

So to continue with my manly theme, we went into a thrift shop and I bought this little chip frying basket for $4.00. As you can see it works a treat. Lib keeps thanking me for making her laugh, which is fabulous. We are getting special treatment in town now too, with people pointing at us.

I was a little concerned about my manhood, but Lib says ‘real men are doers Al’; they can build things like you do.

Lib always says nice things.

My first triathlon

My first triathlon by Alan Owen-Jones. Age 55Studley wetsuit

I am standing in the registration tent and it is 6.30am; ninety minutes before race start and apprehension is riding moderately high. The nervous, sweet-smelling sweat has starting trickling from my armpits, the sort of sweat that cattle might experience in the truck, on the way to the abattoir. I take a deep breath and take control of my breathing and centre myself; I am a man in control. All the other competitors are milling around and staring awkwardly at me, maybe they are admiring a proud man, who is standing tall and determined, centre stage in the tent. As my race kit and number are handed to me, I do wonder why I am the only one wearing my wetsuit, swim cap and goggles, at this point in time. I proudly exit, as the laughter back in the tent increases. Yet the only thing that I hear, is the sound of the tyre levers, spare tubes and bike pump that are rattling in my cycling top, underneath my wetsuit.

It is the start of the swim and it is my first, open-water experience. My club member friends tell me that the one thing that could unnerve me, is the lack of the black line on the bottom of the pool, to guide me. I have come prepared and drawn a vertical line with a black, waterproof, permanent marking texta, on each goggle lens.  Halfway through the swim and I start to cramp in the leg, which hampers my kicking. I soon realise though, that it is my bike pump, slipping out of my wetsuit. It makes me wonder how the pro’s manage.

I finish the swim and remove my goggles and swim cap. I pull out my towel from the front of my wetsuit and give myself a damp wipe with it. I put on my helmet and bike shoes, then de rack my bike, almost forgetting to unlock it. I put the heavy chain around my seat post, adjust my rear view mirror, then I am away. Only ten kilometres into the ride and my handlebar radio is playing up. I pull over, put the kick stand down and remove my helmet and shoes so I can easily take off my wetsuit. I rummage around in the Esky on my pack rack and find some spare batteries under the ice, next to the watermelon. I hit the road again and ride the last twenty kilometres, cruising into the transition area, as I am finishing my last rainbow Paddlepop ice-cream.

I lock up the bike and put the wetsuit on its coat hanger to dry. I slip my running shoes on and it is straight into the run leg, after a brief warm up. For the untrained beginner, it is really hard running, straight off the bike; I had so much trouble focussing my video camera, so I gave up and put it in my day pack, with my thermos flask. After eight gruelling kilometres, I round the last corner and enter the finishing straight. I increase my stride, take off my bike helmet and experience a feeling of warmth, as I cross the line.

I had broken my thermos.