Category Archives: Running

#30For30 – Half Marathon Challenge for the Pahar Trust Nepal

I’ve never been one for New Year’s resolutions, but as we approached the end of 2020 – possibly the most strange and anxious year many of us will have ever experienced – I decided to set myself a running challenge that would be doable regardless of lockdowns and other restrictions that might be in place. My idea was to do something for the Pahar Trust Nepal, an organisation that I’ve long known about thanks to the involvement of good friends of ours. It turned out that, as I thought about what it was I might do, they were in the process of announcing a fundraising campaign to mark 30 years since the first school funded and built by what became the Pahar Trust Nepal was opened.

And so, with #30For30 as their campaign slogan, it seemed only right to come up with a challenge that fit this theme and so the idea of running thirty half marathons in thirty weeks was born. At the time of writing I have completed the first four – you can read about them on my fundraising page, or follow me on Instagram – and despite Berlin’s cold winter they have been going well, although I am beginning to get used to having nearly permanently tired legs. I’m hoping this will get better the longer the challenge goes on.

About the #30For30 Campaign

From the first school opened in Pokharithok, a tiny village in the Himalayas, the Pahar Trust Nepal has completed more than 200 projects, including building and renovating 159 schools, 51 libraries and 38 other essential projects such as health centres and toilets. For the #30For30 campaign throughout the whole of 2021, the PTN is aiming to raise £50,000 to help 30 schools in Nepal improve their teaching provision and facilities for pre-primary school children aged 1-5 years old.

This might include the total refurbishment of a classroom, or more resources such as stationery, toys and other educational materials. From the PTN website:

When children attend pre-primary education, they are more likely to stay in school and attain minimum reading and mathematics competencies. It also supports economic growth, as it enables mothers and other caregivers the opportunity to work and increase their earnings.

Research also shows that children who receive safe, quality education at this age are significantly more likely to have more successful outcomes as adults.

The campaign supports the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal to ensure all children have access to quality early childhood development (ECD) so that they are ready for primary education.

I have set my own fundraising goal to £800 and as of today thanks to some generous support I am already at 81% of the target. To get an idea how the fundraising can help, here is an overview of how the money collected can be used:

£20 could provide a bag and educational materials for a student
£100 could repaint a classroom
£500 could provide new resources such as stationery & toys
£1,200 could provide new flooring, a whiteboard & furniture
£3,000 could provide the complete refurbishment of an existing room

I’ll add some updates here on the blog as the campaign continues, both about my runs but also the projects in Nepal that the campaign will help, and once the weather improves and I can strike out a bit from running only from home, I’ll also post some route ideas for anyone planning to come to Berlin and would like to explore by running a half marathon through the city. And if you feel like supporting me in this 30-week challenge, then please visit my Justgiving page. I know that things are tough financially for many people right now, but anything you can donate will make a very real difference and is greatly appreciated. And if anyone fancies keeping me company on a long run between now and July, just let me know.


Joseph Roth and the Schiller Park in spring

The parks of a city reflect their surroundings, not so much in how they look but in who can be found wandering their pathways or lounging on their green spaces. In Berlin, many of the parks were created with the expansion of the city – ‘People’s Parks’ intended as a patch of nature, a communal garden, for those who lived in cramped tenement blocks and worked the red-brick factories of the industrial age. With their trees, lawns and gravel paths, the parks of Friedrichshain, Wedding, Mitte and even the grand old Tiergarten in the heart of the city, have always shared much in common, but since the beginning they got their local character from their local characters.

In 1923 the writer Joseph Roth visited the Schiller Park in Wedding for an article published in the Berliner Börsen-Courier. It was autumn, and he reflected on the falling leaves and the poetry in the sound of their rustling, that symbolised a spirit of ‘mournfulness and a sense of transience’ that fitted the time of the year. Or at least, it did in the Tiergarten, preserve of the promenading well-to-do of Charlottenburg. In the Schiller Park, things were different:

‘…the locals from the working-class district of Wedding gather up the leaves every evening, and dry them, and use them for winter fuel. Rustling is strictly a luxury, as if poetry without central heating were a luxury.’ (from What I Saw, translated by Michael Hofmann, Granta)

On a Saturday morning in spring I run from my flat in Gesundbrunnen (once part of Wedding) through the backstreets of my neighbourhood until the Schiller Park opens out in front of me. There are no leaves on the ground of course, and even if there were, most of Wedding’s apartments now have central heating. But in the people on the benches and playing football on the open space, the neighbourhood is still reflected, as it was when Roth was here. This scene is Wedding. The park is rooted in its community.

The football pitches are both makeshift and yet impressively organised, with thin ropes and plastic training cones to mark the sidelines. Each team has a different coloured bib, and there is a referee, identifiable as the only person on the pitch without a day-glo vest and by the whistle hanging around his neck. There is a small crowd off the the side watching on at the halfway line, and I stop with them for a moment as I catch my breath. Encouragement is shouted in a number of different languages. A young child plays in the piles of discarded jackets and tracksuit tops of the players. I chat with a man doing keepy-uppies, waiting for his substitute appearance. We speak in English. He was born on another continent. He lives around the corner. He asks me where I am from. I tell him I was born on an island that seems to wish it was another continent. And that I also live around the corner. He laughs.

I am tempted to stay in the Schiller Park, to watch the rest of the game and wait for the time that the beers are opened from the crates that mark the halfway line. The sun is warm and music plays, a rhythm from portable speakers that mingles in the spring air with the sound of shouts, the referee’s whistle and the thud of a hoofed clearance out from the back. Elsewhere in the park, morning drinkers occupy the benches that line the path around the edge. I re-join the stream of joggers circling the park. Away from the football pitches, a family have arrived to set up for a picnic, laying out blankets between the coolboxes. It is the first warm Saturday of the year and you can feel the happiness in the air. The Schiller Park is still the neighbourhood’s backyard. It was a mild winter, but a winter nevertheless, and we all survived it. Now it’s time to play.

Words & Picture: Paul Scraton

Through the Granitz Forest, Rügen


From the resort of Binz, on the coast of Rügen island, the path into the Granitz forest starts at the point where the promenade runs out, the neat paving stones giving way to a sandy track of dirt that skirts the beach until it plunges inland and up towards the high cliff-top trail. Germany’s Baltic coast can in general be pretty flat – a landscape of big skies, dykes and dunes, where the only things reaching up towards the clouds are electricity pylons or windfarms. But Granitz is a bit different, formed as it was during the ice age; an undulating moraine landscape that marks the furthest extent of a glaciers journey, like rubble pushed across a wasteland by a mechanical digger.

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A year to elsewhere and back


It was in these quiet days between Christmas and New Year in 2011 that I started Under a Grey Sky, so as well as a look back on what has been going on over the past twelve months it is also something of a birthday. Although I haven’t been able to keep up the intensity of posting here over the last year or so, I remain very proud of the writing that I have published here in 2015 and remain incredibly pleased that so many people continue to read about my (and our) adventures beyond the front door.

At this point a year ago I had a couple of plans for the 2015. I had just finished work at The Circus after five years looking after their company communications and a decision to return to the world of freelance work. The first major plan was the launch of Elsewhere: A Journal of Place with my friend Julia. We published Elsewhere No.01 in June, followed by Elsewhere No.02 in September. Along the way we built a small team here in Berlin who helped us get the journal out there and put on a couple of events, as well as working with some excellent writers, photographers, musicians and illustrators from around the world. I am incredibly proud of Elsewhere and can’t wait to show everyone No’s 3 and 4 which will be published in 2016.
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In the shadow of Schmitz… running Leipzig and the Battle of the Nations


It is strange to visit a place that has already appeared on your own website to which you have never seen with your own eyes before. Katrin visited Leipzig’s Monument to the Battle of the Nations (Völkerschlachtdenkmal in German) a couple of years ago and wrote this post for Under a Grey Sky. But even her pictures could not do justice to the looming scale of the thing, as we arrived to face it on Saturday afternoon as I registered for the Leipzig Half Marathon that was taking place the following morning.

Before we got there, I was wondering what my feelings would be when I came face to face with this looming presence. Monuments built to commemorate battles, especially when triumphalist in conception and execution, always make me a little uneasy. The monument was built in 1913, but the battle itself was 100 years earlier, when on the fields south of Leipzig the combined armies of Prussia, Russia and Austria gathered to defeat Napoleon’s army in what was the biggest mass battle of the 19th century. From Katrin’s blog: Continue reading