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By Andy Mouncey, Jan 27 2020 02:57PM

You’d be forgiven for thinking I’d embraced a life of sloth and gone on the pies given the derth of recent posts of the running-variety. Well, if you’re after self-indulgent LOOK AT ME! over-sharing then this is not the blog for you – though I suspect most of you figured that out pretty quick and have just hung in here with me regardless.

So…just to break the pattern of prison-based stuff and to reassure you that I am indeed still challenging the signs of aging, here IS a post about running.


There has infact, been quite a lot by my standards because this Friday I have an appointment with 100 miles of the SW Coastal path cherry-picked as the link between the start and finish of the Arc Of Attrition race.

We start around 50miles east of Lands End, head west around LE and finish around 50miles north up the coast. Big Picture navigation is this: ‘Keep the sea on the left.’


We start lunchtime so that’s a few hours daylight then lots more hours darkness then a few more hours daylight – and hopefully still finishing in that daylight. Mud and rocks are expected – and steps: LOTS of steps.


So my training has involved lots of this


This


And this



This time I’ve stayed close to home and concentrated on a handful of key routes on which I have build duration by doing relatively small distances over and over and over again.

Mostly in crappy weather.

Usually with a hefty proportion of darkness.

And all with a delightful quantity of steps.


No speedwork as such – rare for me – just a 6 week block of very steady run-hike volume. It’s fit well with the (high-intensity) prison work as most of my creative planning/making sense of that work has been done while grinding grooves in the ground under the light of a head torch.


This wasn’t Plan A but Plan A evolved in to this very quickly as it became apparent that (a) my calves weren’t ready for a beasting and (b) my head and heart was firmly in my work and I just didn’t have the energy beans to go deep in training as well.

Still, I needed something for me and this was to be it – just needed to rearrange the pieces while keeping the game the same.


All of which has meant that I’m almost in holiday-mode for this one – I view it as a somewhat perverse reward for the recent prison success. How that will translate over the 24 hours or so of coastal miles is anyone’s guess – but that’s part of why we play the game!





By Andy Mouncey, Dec 20 2019 03:46PM

Breaking In

So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.

This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk


Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company formed. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019 March: Second ‘Proof Of Concept’ pilot delivered HMP Stafford (unpaid)

2019 June: First business sponsorship (v surprised smiley face)

2019 Dec: First paid work secured HMP Wymott, Lancs.


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 27

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2

Times My Wife Has Really Meant It: 1



Beware! Transformations In Progress

December 9th and I have 24 hours over three days with 10 men at HMP Wymott as follows:

Day 1: 10 hours

Day 2: 8 hours

Day 3: 6 hours

One day out of a lifetime.

One day to shine a light.


I’d pushed the prison to make this happen before Xmas. It was more rushed than they wanted but we had the essentials covered and I figured I’d sold my strategy:

Let’s do it once so we can figure out how we’re going to do it. Then we can do it.


And all this in a world that is traditionally conservative with a small ‘c’ and about as risk adverse as you can get.

Clearly I’m getting quite good at this convincing lark…


In my defense I’d tried very hard to keep it simple:

‘How long?’ they’d asked.

‘Two and a half days’ I replied.

Thank god for the advocacy of Craig from HMP Stafford.


And to be perfectly honest I was heartily sick of waiting.

Just for good measure I’d added a Health Warning:

I’m Here To Shake The Tree – So Don’t Complain When You Get Hit By Falling Fruit




Despite all that I was certain of three things:

Not everyone believed me.

Not everyone was ready.

We were going to need some hard hats.


8.07am Day 1 and eight men have arrived – realization kicking in that yes, the idiot in the orange shirt wasn’t kidding and he is here and we really are going to start at 8am.

Without any breakfast.


8.10 and we’re out on the yard and I get word that the other two have arrived.

Sorry – we said 8am. Please say that I hope they will re-apply for next time…

And then we were 8.


Some Highlights

MELON

Breakfast on Day 3 and they’re all tucking into a slice of melon.

All of them.

WTF??


Catering and I had hatched a cunning plan: We’d deliberately fed them the normal prison bland stodge on the first day heavy in processed carbs, refined sugars and somewhat lacking in flavor. (G had complained of feeling sick in the afternoon and I bet he wasn’t the only one).


Day 2 and we changed the menu to more choices consistent with good health and energy and more bottles of water than I suspect they’d ever seen. I gave them their own personal water bottle and we sat back to watch the reactions.

Nobody bitched.

Everyone drank.

Smiles broke out.

And on the final day they’re tucking into frickin’ melon??


KNEES

Day 1 and I’m shocked at how many struggle to straighten their legs. Then I remember:

‘What do you do for most of a normal day?’ I’d asked.

‘Sit on our arses’ came the reply.

So bent knees are normal and OK – until you’re out with me on the exercise yard.


One quick A-B-C anatomy class later and I figure we need yet another competition to add to all the other competitions I’m throwing at them.

So on Day 2 we have ‘Last Man Standing’ – which after a false first start is amended to Last Man (Free)Standing to cut out the sneaky leaning against the wall. Very simple: Stay standing through everything we do – stationary cycling and rowing excepted – and a strict time limit on any Number 2 toilet moments.


The first one to drop comes at 70 minutes – which is bloody amazing actually – with the winner holding our for 4 hours and earning the chocolate cake prize. Much fun was had by me casting temptation in their path in the form of comfy chairs and blissful being seated sound effects. You had to be there…




RULES

We had some – they made ‘em – and we wrote ‘em up in big shiny writing.

Then on the morning of Day 2 I hear this among the group chat:

‘J’s sold his bottle’.

The water bottle that I gave him for this program. Well, we have Rules about property…

I gather them to me:

‘Gentlemen: You have 30 seconds to select two people to represent the group to talk to me and Mike and help us resolve and issue that has just happened.’


Representatives chosen, issue shared, outcome and process agreed.

Process starts.

J storms out.

J retrieved.

J wobbles.

J stays – and everyone is reminded of the following:

When you set rules some people will test that you’re serious – and keep testing. That’s normal: Your job is to pass those tests.


WOW

There were lots of ‘wow’ but here’s one that I really did not expect.

Day 1 and 2 and I notice that people were having a sneaky vape here and there.

On a drug rehab unit?

Really?

So I do the innocent curiosity bit and ask…and get an answer along the lines of ‘it’s another one of those low level running battle things…’

Okaayyyy.


Heading for teatime on Day 2 and we’ve just spent two hours sweating all over the gym.

The lads gather me in telling me they have an announcement to make:

‘We’re going to stop vaping. We know it’s sabotaging everything else we’re doing – ‘ (my eyes widen at the mention of the Support v Sabotage session I’d closed with yesterday) – ‘and we’re sorry and we’ve all agreed to stop.’


I look sideways at Mike and he looks at me. We’ve just been having a conversation on this very subject – and I suspect we both share the same unspoken thought:

F**kin’ Hell!


CLOSING

The final half day is a gym-based triathlon challenge that they all complete – peer support from a shared challenging experience is truly a wonderful thing - followed by a celebratory meal, awards including funky T-shirts for all, verbal testimonies and personal commitments going forward.


My closing statement had been inspired by a conversation with Clinks CEO Anne Fox a few weeks earlier www.clinks.org.uk with my brain very helpfully presenting me with the final wording at 3am that morning:




‘I have no idea what it feels like to be where you are and I hope to god I never do.

I hope that these 24 hours we have shared together have shown you that even in the dark places we have choices and options.

Choose to be a light in the darkness, gentlemen – for yourself and others: And always wear your T shirt.’




By Andy Mouncey, Dec 9 2019 01:30PM

Breaking In

So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.

This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk


Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company formed. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019 March: Second ‘Proof Of Concept’ pilot delivered HMP Stafford (unpaid)

2019 June: First business sponsorship (v surprised smiley face)

2019 Dec: First paid work secured HMP Wymott, Lancs.


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 27

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2

Times My Wife Has Really Meant It: 1


Wymott Expects

It starts as I am escorted from the prison gate to the self-enclosed unit that is the Theraputic Centre inside HMP Wymott.

Wymott is a ‘C’ class of prison – so fairly low level of security – with around 1100 men serving time across the full range of categories. The TC is a 70-bed building housing men 24-7 who are in recovery from addiction and have committed to be so.


Whatever you think of the levels of drug use/abuse in society at large the problem is way worse in prisons for lots of reasons – one of which is the removal of detection-treatment resources as part of the so-called austerity drive of the last decade. We’ve also had the rapid rise in use of new ‘legal highs.’ All this has meant more people inside behaving out of control and less resources to deal with that. This has led to more violence with staff and inmates on the receiving end and yet more sticking plaster solutions as our political leaders run scared from the braying masses.

You could say there is a need.


The TC is something of an island amidst this storm – it has some of it’s own rules and rituals - and it’s where I will be working from next month.

Except some of the men clearly think I start today.


I pick up the odd greeting and comment as I get closer from the small groups on fresh air time. I return these automatically making sure I do eye contact…This is something I’ve worked hard on from the early days: Being proactive with a greeting and eye contact even when I was having kittens inside. It matters...but it still doesn’t register that I’m being greeted by people who seem to know (of) me


Through the door and more of the same – this time very warmly by three members of staff including…

‘This is Mike, Andy – he’ll be with you for the program…’ I register the smile and handshake and the fact that this means I will now have two members of the team with me for the duration – the first being Fi who has been designated Point for this pilot and has met me at the gate today.

She’s also clearly been doing some groundwork.


Fi: ‘We’ve selected the men in buddy pairs as we discussed ‘– (we had) – ‘and we’ve been talking about it quite a lot. They’re really keen to get started’ - she throws me a grin – ‘ as you can see!’

No shit. Which either means she’s done a helluva selling job or they’re just really bored…

As we work our way through the TC the greetings and questions keep coming which is lovely and suprising and…

Not what I asked for or anticipated today.


‘Do you want to meet the men?’ asked Fi when we were discussing today.

‘No.’ I’d said. ‘This is about meeting the key staff, doing the hearts and minds bit and casing the joint. What I learn (today) will inform what I say when I met the men – and when I do meet ‘em I want it to be about them.’

Hmm. Might not be able to hold that line the way this is going…and Fi gives me a nudge:

‘You might want to think about saying a few words…’


Yeah, I might.

Before that though there is the small matter in pitching this thing to key members of staff from across the prison – and while I know Fi has been warming ‘em up this is still crucial First Contact.

I take a deep breath and do what I’ve rehearsed recalling that time-honored advice from HMP Stafford:

‘Just don’t be shit, OK?’

It also helps that Craig from HMP Stafford came up to Wymott with me last month to meet some senior staff and to vouch for what we did:

‘It works, this is how – and you need it’ he’d said.

And here we are.


Over the years I’ve got way better at this bit so now there’s no selling at all. I lay out where we could go and let them figure out a ‘how’ that would work here. An hour and change later and I find myself sitting back in almost wonder as the pieces are being knit together by the people present as yours truly is almost redundant.

Well, almost.

As we start to wrap up Fi catches my eye once again and I know what’s coming:

‘It would be really nice if you could say something to the lads Andy…’


Here’s what sometimes happens at home with our boys at bedtime: They will think of a question to ask Mum or Dad that means they HAVE to come downstairs and take a peek round the living room door to see what the parents are watching on the telly. Oh, and then forget the question.


Well, it’s been a bit like that this afternoon: We’ve had periodic interruptions for seemingly innocuous reasons from folks who are clearly desperate to join the party. And now almost as if by magic as we wind up our session the lads who are due to be Group One have infiltrated the room seemingly by osmosis and are all on the spare chairs looking up at me expectedly.

I look at Fi.

Fi looks at me.

I look at the lads.


Now at this point in the film the tumbleweed blows past to the mournful sound of a tolling bell. Or I remember that if I can’t pull a Hearts & Minds bit out of the hat at a moment notice by now I really need to find a new vocation. So I take a breath, go inside and trust that I can take them where they need to go.


By Andy Mouncey, Nov 13 2019 05:10PM

Breaking In


So you think it’s hard breaking out of prison? You want to try breaking in.


This is what it takes for a new social enterprise with One Big Idea to get going in our Justice sector – as lived by Andy Mouncey of Run For Your Life CIC www.runforyourlife.org.uk


Timeline To Date

2012 First invitation to a Category C prison. Project pulled pre-start

2013 First short pilot delivered (unpaid) at a Cat D prison

2014-16 More testing – more pilots – still no ££

2016 RFYL Conception. Doors open–doors close-funding bids/rejected

2017 RFYL Community Interest Company incorporation. Doors open-close/bids (sad face)

2018 Doors open–close/bids etc: Getting boring now. Still no ££

2019: Too far in to give up – so it’s this year or bust!


The Numbers

Funding Bids Written & Rejected: 27

Times I’ve Honestly Thought About Quitting: 4

Times My Wife Has Given Me Permission To Quit: 2

Times My Wife Has Really Meant It: 1



This piece was going to be called ‘Sucking Vacuum’ – ‘cos that’s what it’s been like:

Nothing.

Niet.

Nada.

The last few months were summed up in the first few minutes of a recent prison visit.

Here’s the thing about visiting a prison: You can’t just rock up – you make an arrangement which means you are expected. You provide information – often more than once. And if it’s also not your first time you also know what to expect:

Do bring a photo ID.

Do expect to shout through the security screen.

Don’t bring any electronics – or anything else on The Big List Of Dont’s

Do bring a supply of patience.

Do set your Customer Relationship Manager/Front Of House expectations on low.


Now I’ve been kept waiting in prison reception on many occasions for the simple reason that in prison Shit Happens. What that means is any arrangements you make are subject to Shit Not Happening because when Shit Does Happen the ripple effect is usually quite large which means more people are affected which means one of them is likely to be the person you are here to see.


This time Shit Does Indeed Happen and 45 minutes after my allotted time I’m finally met. In that time my two attempts to get information from the Gatehouse team – whose numbers swell to 5-6 of people who appear to be standing round chatting and looking anywhere but the growing crowd of us in reception – are met with bemused indifference that translates to ‘Welcome to our world Mr Community – this is just how we roll...’

So there’s me holding my…while inhaling Information Vacuum with an extra ‘u’ thinking this just about sums up my last few months.


And Justice wonders why prisons struggle to engage with people from their local communities (sigh).


So that’s the stuff I was going to write about – along with the rejected bids, busted deadlines, blown commitments and the general system paralysis that comes with Parliament suspended, political musical chairs, elections and (frightening) partisan policy announcements that have been rubbished countless times by evidence but play beautifully to the zealots in the galleries.


It’s just that writing about shit makes me feel shit – ‘one of the reasons I’m not into counseling – so I’ve held off despite periodic prompts from Authentic Living My Brand Bloke to ‘Write it as it is, man!’

There’s such a thing as ‘over-sharing’ in my book…


Of course there have been moments of light that have warmed my soul and kept me sane and I would have shared – really I would – except I’ve struggled to keep the spark alight against the general trend of pushing water uphill. But even I was getting uncomfortable about the absence of updates so I was girding my loins for a post and then…


There’s nothing like your wife in tears to get your attention.


It started as a perfectly normal Monday morning: Early morning routine, breakfast, boys dispatched to school… and then it wasn’t.


Turns out a perfect storm of sorts had been brewing for Charlotte:

She’d been reading some stuff about children in unregulated care homes that had really rocked her.

We have close friends who are really struggling with their kids.

I’d just come back from presenting my nattily titled workshop ‘Coping With Crap’ to 120 young people at the Teenage Cancer Trust residential weekend ‘Find Your Sense Of Tumour’ – see what they did there?! - and that was a privilege and a pleasure.

She has watched husband’s gradual slide from post successful HMP Stafford pilot in March to battered and bruised from nearly 8 months of successive doors slammed in face.

And while we’ve checked in periodically with each other and I’m way better at processing it than I was, she knows that this period has been the most challenging for me: I’ve done what the skeptics asked for – proved my concept – and still seemingly, no-one wants it.


Mrs Mouncey it seems, had reached the ‘Well f**k ‘em then – I want my husband back’ stage.


I just sat there in almost shock as the tears and permission came:


There are kids in trouble who have been thrown on the scrapheap and that’s just wrong on so many levels.

You’re good.

Your stuff works – you’ve just proved it again this weekend.

We have people on our doorstep who’d welcome what you can give.

Maybe the prisons just aren’t ready – or they really don’t want it.

Forget the grant applications – nobody’s giving and it’s doing your head in.

You want to be out there making a difference – ‘cos you can and you do – not bent over a keyboard…

You don’t have to stop but maybe it’s time to change – to go where you’re wanted.

And if you want to do that then it’s OK by me.

In fact it’s more than OK – I think you should.


There was considerably more to it than that but you get the gist and that’s all you’re getting – ’cos the full version is between Mrs Mouncey and me.


I gave myself two days to process it but clearly word had got out via weird and wonderful forces because before that deadline expired I got this email from HMP Wymott, Lancashire with whom I’d been in on-off discussions for the last 18 months:


Andy, happy to fund ££ for 3 of your short programs Nov-Jan as we discussed. Can you link with __ to finalize delivery plans?


By Andy Mouncey, Sep 17 2019 11:12AM


Red Bull Amaphiko Academy
Red Bull Amaphiko Academy

RedBull - they of energy drinks with gravity-defining aspirations - have a global program that supports social entrepreneurs: People who have creative ideas to help solve the big problems in the world and make a difference to the lives of others.


Around this time last year I was invited to attend one of the 3 Amaphiko Connect UK gatherings in Bradford and despite my shy retiring demeanour I found I stood out for a number of reasons: Baldest, oldest - and the only one not using a phone as a watch.


I figured if I wanted to hook into an existing network where Sport For Development was seen as just normal I might as well go big and global. Our boys were sadly brought back down to earth when they learned that Daddy wasn’t actually going to work for RedBull and therefore wouldn’t have Danny MacAskill’s email address on tap - and they were too young to consume the product anyway (sigh).


RedBull and I have been back and forth since then. I have done an inspirational bit for one of their London-based teams and we now have a commitment to put together a short film on my prison work. (Just need to get some then, Andy doncha).


In the meantime I have shared some of the stuff populating my insides with the big world on the outside in the form of an interview.


Go forth and give wiings to the world, people!



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