29 June 2009

Memory of a Free Festival

Not content (it seems) with my exertions the day before, today I ran both ways between Paddington and the office in blistering heat. Indeed, I even diverted on the morning run to Run and Become to invest in a White Rock headband, which proved invaluable on the return run in the evening.
The morning trip was further complicated by three phone calls in Hyde Park with a client who has conections with a participant in various musical events that took place there many years ago. Nothing like the event they are prepared for in Hyde Park today, for which a fence has been erected of which the Israeli government would be proud. It's almost a paradigm case of how intellectual property (in the broad sense of the expression) represents the triumph of private over public rights - only almost, because Hyde Park is a Royal Park, not public property, but if the Queen keeps on allowing private interests to interfere with her subjects' enjoyment of it I might be turning republican before long.
No fence keeps the music in, anyway, as Beniamino and I proved a couple of years ago, sitting in the park listening to Robyn Hitchcock (but not seeing him). A huge sign indicates that an aperture in the fence is for those enjoying corporate hospitality: various big businesses channeling money they don't really have into big music businesses, no doubt. Corporate hospitality is much better when it takes the form of a pizza followed by an evening in the 100 Club - at least, that's worked well for me. And in Hyde Park, you'd have to put up eith the noise coming from all the people who didn't really want to hear the music anyway: not to mention extremes of hot and cold, possible downpours and all the other delights of an English sumnmer evening.
So, I have done a couple of 10Ks today on top of yesterday's, and I must say a rest tommorrow (until I have to do five miles in the evening) will be welcome. It was too hot, really, to run today, and then too hot to work comfortably in the office. Out to buy elderflower cordial and coffee (from different suppliers) in the afternoon heat, I walked through Bunhill Fields, a very old burial ground in the City, about 100 yards from mthe office: and there, side by side, were Daniel Defoe and William Blake.

28 June 2009

Mad Dogs and Englishmen: the Thame 10K

A young guy in an Argentine football shirt drew level with me at about 8K before leaving me for dead, and we chatted for a little while. He referred to this event as a fun run, but I can't believe it was ever billed that way. "A fun run is 20 yards, at the most" I told him. And I might have added (had he remained longer within earshot) that it does not take place on a blisteringly hot June morning.

I arrived a little early to enter on the day, slightly anxious about the race perhaps being full, but I need not have worried. However, the entry form gave me pause for thought: it invited me to state in which category I fell, and the option for a man over 50 was described as "Super Vet". The adjective I rather liked, but in conjunction with the noun I was at least a little ambivalent. This novel classification is the work of the governing body - thanks for making me feel good about myself.

By 0930 as we lined up at the start - around a thousand runners - the sun was already beating down. I joked to the guy next to me that we would have heatstroke before the start, as we had several minutes to wait. Last time I ran this race - fifteen years ago! - it was equally hot, but I was a novice: it was one of my earliest races, and I knew little of what I was letting myself in for. I do recall the pleasure of running through the spray provided by a spectator standing outside their house with a hosepipe, though. No such luck today.

Like I so often do, I ran well for 80 per cent of the distance. I have too many of these in my record: a good 11 miles in a half-marathon, a good half-marathon in a 15-miler, a decent 25 miles in a 40-miler ... By 8K (the course had km markers but no mile markers, the first time I have seen that in England) we were running along an old railway track - what Cinephile was referring to in this weekend's FT crossword: they hadn't reckoned with Beeching when they named it permanent way - with little relief from the sun. A short stretch of shade was very welcome, but short it certainly was. And, like another footpath-cum-cycle route that I have run, in last year's Shakespeare marathon, it seemed pretty well endless. My willpower evaporated and my legs went on strike: I stopped for a short rest, I stopped for water, I stopped for another short rest, then set off at a jog to get the final couple of kilometres out of the way. Compression socks meant that my calves were fine, but even the green shoes (an experiment, running 10K in them) were almost too heavy for the above-the-knee muscles to lift.

I know where I went wrong, of course. I always do after a race. I imagine that all runners do. I did not hydrate enough before the start, and I needed a bowl - a big bowl - of porridge before leaving home, not just crunchy oat cereal. Nevertheless, after I got myself jogging again in the last couple of km, I arrived in sight of the finish with enough energy to outsprint four guys (John Harvey's photo here), none of them Super Vets as far as I could tell, and although my Garmin device had enough juice left to obey my instruction to stop and reset I had to get home and plug it in before I could find out that my time was 47:39:15. The chip time will be a bit more than that, but I didn't feel unhappy about that - although I thought ruefully about chasing 40 minutes just three years ago.

Another tee shirt for my collection, and a goody bag containing a very welcome bottle of isotonic drink, two Mars Bars (almost liquid by the time I got them home in the hot car) and, bizarrely, a couple of wristbands and one of those things for hanging a pass round one's neck, all from the Euro 2008 football tournament. A novel way to dispose of out-of-date junk!

19 June 2009

One of these Days

On Wednesday, I had to drag myself away from the office to come home. Not because I was enjoying myself so much, but because I dreaded the journey - as I have for years. But I donned my shorts and tee shirt, pulled on my running shoes and enjoyed the first leg of the journey as much as I have enjoyed any run. I didn't time it, just took it at a comfortable trot and caught the train with ease. I felt bon dans ma peau, as they say, almost as bon as when I was running daily a few weeks ago.

On Thursday, yesterday, I had a meeting with a client at 10 in London to thrash out a contract, so I took an early coach to London. By the time I arrived in town I had nearly two hours work under my belt. Then a two-hour meeting, after which I set up my office temporarily at table 1 in that client's restaurant where I had a pleasant lunch with an old friend whom I see too rarely and worked at the other things on my "to do" list. Then it was back on the coach to Oxford and more contract drafting. Well over five hours chargeable time: although I did arrive home feeling exhausted it was the sort of tiredness that comes at the end of a satisfying race.

So, what have these two days got in common? How can I consistently get from my work what I get from my running? If only I knew ... I am working on it, and my first step has been to start re-reading Murakami.

17 June 2009

Dress to depress

As a semi-professional presenter, I am always interested to observe how others do the job. This week I spent an afternoon in a very interesting session, and the main facilitator was an object lesson, to my mind, in how not to present oneself.
His message was clear and well-expressed, but his appearance was so unpreposessing that it detracted from the value of what he had to say. It was hard, at first, to take him seriously.
He had chosen a pair of pinstriped trousers which might well have been half a suit, though in line with modern thinking there was sign of a jacket. I take my suit jacket off to present, but I would not dream of starting without one.
Nor was there any sign of a tie, though it is hard to conceive of one which would have harmonised with the shirt. This looked well-cut from a good material, which had been printed with a ghastly collection of stripes in various shades of grey with a little pink. It completely drained away what little colour there was in his complexion. He probably works 12 or more hours a day for the corporate behemoth that pays his salary and passes his leisure time in front of a computer or TV screen, or in some hellish club being assailed by incomprehensible and deafening music.
Stripes and stripes are bad enough, but navy pinstriped trousers with brown belt and shoes is another sartorial disaster which compounds the overall impression. Worse, the belt is not up to supporting the incipient beer belly that rides over the front of the trousers, and the shoes - a modern style that provides several inches of redundant toe-space, which must make stairs very tricky - are badly scuffed, battered in the elongated toe area and obviously unacquainted with polish.
The overall impression is reinforced at the other vertical extremity, where gelled hair that appears to have been styled with the assistance of a hedge (traversed backwards) or a couple of fingers in an electrical socket is complemented by what might politely be called designer stubble (when on a good-looking singer or model) but which actually looks more like laziness, or perhaps a broken shaver, until you notice that he has troubled to shave parts around his adam's apple. At least the growth serves to obscure, though obviously not to hide, some spots which nevertheless manage to shine through.
His colleagues, and other participants, mostly belong to similarly eccentric schools of fashion thought. One stands in front of us wearing neatly-pressed suit trousers and a high quality white cotton shirt which has not recently been in the presence of an iron. Closer up, the cuffs and collar display a long term lack of attention at laundry time. The open neck and white tee-shirt visible there fail to provide the colour his pallid face needs.
Does this matter? Quite by chance, between finishing the previois paragraph and starting this one I found myself in a tube carriage with the friend who invited me to that session, and he is interested in feedback. We agree that the subject of my criticism was very good at his job, and the corporate behemoth must be assumed to know what it is doing. I regret the fact that his personal presentation detracted from what he had to say, until I had overcome initial unfavourable impressions and focussed on what he was doing very well.
I think I am right to ensure I am smartly turned-out when I stand in front of an audience. And I perform better when I feel comfortable.
Sent using Bunberry from Orange

16 June 2009

The Polite Force

Emerging from the pedestrian tunnel onto the Victoria Line platform at King's Cross, I find it fill of British Transport Police officers and Lodon Underground employees. One the police officers shouts peremptorily for the ordinary people who pay his wages to move over. The compelling word is not please, but police. He leads out three groups of officers each with a captive in handcuffs.