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By Andy Mouncey, Jun 12 2018 01:37PM

This one was first written early 2017 in which I attempt to put my spin on one of the central dilemmas of successful rehabilitation.

The Trouble With Transition

In 2016 Martin McGuinness died. Most recently known for his role as Deputy First Minister for Northern Ireland, he was also infamous as IRA Chief Of Staff and as one of their senior commanders during The Troubles. His passing presented an apparent reporting dilemma for many in the media: On the one hand questions remain over the precise nature his IRA activities – and specifically how much blood was on his hands. On the other, he was one of the architects of The Good Friday Agreement and without him, many commentators have argued, Gerry Adams alone could not have brought the republicans to the negotiating table.

But what do you focus on?

What’s the mark of the man?

What is his legacy?

In the last 18 months I’ve met more people who have turned their life around on the outside after spending time incarcerated on the inside than in the whole of my first 50 years. Here are three: LJ Flanders who was inspired to create a fitness regime for the smallest of spaces and is now back working with inmates. Erwin James who got himself an education and is now a journalist with The Guardian, and John Macavoy who in a parallel world should have been talent-spotted by British Triathlon, but instead discovered a talent for ultra endurance by breaking world records on an indoor rowing machine. A few short years after his release he is now knocking on the door of a pro triathlete license and helping turn young lives around.

These men broke the rules, paid the price and chose a new path – and made the transition stick despite people like me.

Because here’s the thing: I was quite casually using labels like ‘ex-offender,’ ‘former prisoner’ or ‘convicted murderer’ to tell the tale of these encounters while knowing full well the preconceptions that those tags carry for most of us in mainstream society.

‘Cos we make assumptions and we carry baggage.

How confident would you be if one of the many hurdles along the way is to tick the box on the job application form to declare a criminal history? http://www.unlock.org.uk/projects/employment-discrimination/ban-the-box/

It took me much longer than it should have to remember to separate the person from the behaviour: These were men who had been to prison – who they were was much more than just that, and their turnaround – their transition - was proof.

Not all can be saved or will choose to save themselves. There will be those for which the solution is actually to lock the door and throw away the key, and there will be those that for some, nothing can be done or said that will eclipse the deed.

That still leaves and awful lot that can and will do their best to try. And perhaps – as ever – it is the small things that we can all do that can have the biggest impact.

Check our assumptions.

Separate the behaviour from the person.

Limit our labels to those tags that best serve to strengthen our society for the benefit of us all.

By Andy Mouncey, May 4 2018 09:10AM

I’ve spent much of the last two years trying to figure the right combination to the door of the Justice sector so that I can get the damn thing open and start working there with my new venture www.runforyourlife.org.uk

Some of you will know this if you get the newsletters – but what you wont know is how often I am asked the ‘Why The Hell Would You?’ question.

Very often.

The conversations that come after often prove thought provoking or troubling for that person depending on your point of view. Lazy assumptions are challenged and beliefs are poked at – which is exactly what happened to me when I first got into this and I didn’t much like it either.

I’ve written periodically about my experiences and given the rising level of curiosity I’m receiving have decided to reproduce them here over the next few weeks sprinkled innocently among the running stuff. Headlines hitting the media from our Justice sector are almost all negative right now and have been for a long time. And while there are good people doing great stuff hidden in there the task before them is shockingly daunting. What has become clear to me in these two years is that as ever, the solution involves us all not least because of this:

‘Today’s offenders are tomorrow’s neighbours.’ Phil Novis, Governor HMP Leicester

Inside: A View From The Outside

First written April 2017

Prison. A subject for which there’s no middle ground for many people – which is interesting because if at least one of the key functions is to stop re-offending, then as institutions they are failing miserably: In the UK around 6 out of 10 prisoners will re-offend within a year of release.

I’m in the process of securing a first pilot program in the prison estate as we seek to make our contribution to reducing re-offending by taking a radical approach to learning: Running and triathlon-based education programs. No, clearly we can’t take ‘em to the local swimming pool – which just means the physical challenge part becomes gym-based.

It’s not the first time I’ve been ‘inside’ – a couple of years ago I did a test version of this at an Open prison, and before that I’d visited a Category C. But walking round a city centre Cat B prison for the first time is something else: 500 men housed in what are mainly forbidding Victorian structures – and it’s a veritable melting pot: Detainees, serious offenders, lifers, those on remand, young offenders, those awaiting re-settlement, minor offenders and vulnerable prisoners.

During my last visit they walked me through the process a new arrival experiences prior to their first night.

‘And we’ll take you onto the wings as well, Andy – including the segregation wing and the mental health wing. OK?’

Of course it wasn’t. But if I was going to be any damn use to them with this program I needed to experience their world.

The segregation wing houses men who are in danger from general population, are a danger to themselves, or are a danger to general population. I see the trashed cells – my brain struggling to process the damage a crazed human being can do to reinforced structures and fittings. Then the mental health wing – spotlessly clean - then onto the general wings: Blocks of 100 cells stacked on three floors just like you see on the telly. It’s normal routine which means cells are unlocked and prisoners are on the landing. We walk through – upto the top floor and back again. All the while I’m doing my best to project the same front as my escort so that – orange shirt aside – the men see and hear something familiar.

But inside? That’s a very different story.

Back outside my heart rate starts to settle and my escort grins knowingly at me:

‘So how what that?’

I do my best to bring order to the inner turmoil: ‘Setting aside what we think about crime and punishment, that was…sobering. Intimidating. Unsettling…’

A nod. ‘Yeah, not many people from outside get to experience what you just did….’

I’m still struggling to make sense of what I think but one thing I do know – if more people walked the walk I just took our country would be better for it.

By Andy Mouncey, Apr 20 2018 01:38PM

‘Bloody hell, it’s turning purple!’

Now I know what some of you are thinking – and this is not that kind of blog. It’s this:

I’m back in the treatment room with Phil who has looked after my aches and pains for years and knows my posterior and superior aspects and distal end probably way better than is healthy.

And we’re watching my right foot turn a deep shade of red right before our eyes.

Amazing things, bodies - even when they’re off-message: Which is right where bits of mine are at the moment.

Four weeks ago and it all felt like shin splints – except that didn’t entirely stack up because:

I’m not exactly new at this game

I’d not done anything new

Or stupid

But it bloody felt like it and it HURT.

So we held an inquest and retained an open verdict – something didn’t stack up.

But it still bloody hurt and training had come to a juddering halt – and that wasn’t fair ‘cos I’m on a Project here, dammit!!

Getting dizzy so headed for a different physical therapist and different opinion and different direction. Not completely convinced but I could follow the reasoning so I went with it. And it felt like a breakthrough – for a short time. Heck, I even got complemented on my running style by a passing walker one outing and in 35 years of doing this thing I can’t EVER recall that happening. I felt free, easy and light…

And then came crashing back down again.

‘Time for the Nuclear Option then.

Symptoms to this point had been what I would describe as ‘guerilla warfare’ - not enough to completely kill me but enough to generate almost constant discomfort at rest and play. Technically, it’s the ‘Now I’m Just Really Pissed Off ‘ stage.

Escalation was called for and this meant re-visiting an approach that eventually got me out of two years of injury back in 2014 (Stuck-and-Slipping)

If resting the running and rehab had not worked, it was time to just run without any attempt at rehab ‘cos I knew that there were only ever going to be two outcomes here:

1. Symptoms would settle

2. Symptoms would flare horribly

Either way I’d get the certainty that was proving so damn elusive – and Phil would have some screaming symptoms to play with as opposed to the slippery elusive ones I was presenting him with.

So I gave myself a four day window, gritted my teeth and hobbled off:

Day 1: 90mins

Day 2: 2 hours

Day 3: 2.5 hours

Day 4: 3 hours

And just to be sure on Day 5 I went out for an hour before I saw Phil and … here we are watching my foot turn purple: Escalation achieved – result!

Time to try join the dots and figure Cause-Effect then – and after comparing notes we come up with the following:

There’s been a pattern of symptoms going back to 2014-5 and first onset of severe maceration on the soles of my feet – otherwise known as ‘trench foot’ - that have all been related to poor circulation in my lower legs. (How much this is a consequence of multiple winters preparing for the damn Spine Race is probably a moot question. Let’s just say the timing is suspicious and leave it at that).

And once again a key feature is the pooling of fluid / inflammation in the lower leg: It’s not a structural problem ‘cos I can run – as the 4 day escalation experiment proved - but it’s painful and not pretty. All of which points to s systemic problem: Most of the sabotage is happening when at rest – ‘cos I’m heading out already gritting my teeth - and that points to the lymphatic drainage system not doing it’s job properly.

All of which leaves us with the following:


Settle these latest symptoms down now - and turning the circulation in my legs up to Number 11 will be key to that.


Figure out a way to proactively and reactively manage temperature and moisture build up in/around my feet and keep the drain happening even when at rest.

So we have a project within a project – and rather more of this:

And somewhat less of this:

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