18 February 2010

Shelter from the Storm

Lousy weather this morning, which made me feel even better running from Notting Hill Gate to the office. Not fast, but a steady, endurance-building pace with a brief chat with a guy at Hyde Park Corner training for the London Marathon and on his way to Run and Become to buy racing flats.

Nearly at my destination, a gaggle of foreign visitors was filling the pavement forcing me and another runner onto the road. As we reached the head of the gaggle, the leading three of them turned to step onto a zebra crossing: two looked and, seeing us bearing down on them, stepped back: the third looked the other way and stepped into my path. I knocked her flying - she landed on her back, on the pavement, thankfully uninjured - I helped her up and she apologised, explaining (as far as I could tell) that she was from Europe and had looked the wrong way for the traffic. How many times have I done that in countries that follow the Napoleonic rule of the road? So I sympathised - and didn't try to assure her that I too was from Europe - that might have been a bit too complicated.

16 February 2010

Oh Well

An excellent, flowing run round Abingdon this evening. I spent a lot of it in the company of Andrew and Tracey, but down Audlett Drive and back along the ring road I stretched myself and was surprised at the pace I could maintain. The Watch (as I have decided to call it - it does so much that the capital is justified) failed to record anything, though, possibly because of the damp conditions. it felt as if i could have carried on running for ever - it was efficient and economical and it felt great.

I was also pleased that Andrew had a solution to the problem of my Barney Run time: age-grading. I've put my performance into a WMA calculator and it has knocked 4½ minutes off my time. That's a very satisfactory improvement in 36 years.

13 February 2010


Am I in line to have wires put in my brain? Not out of the question ... The snow did not fall in Barnard Castle (which once again I am referring to as Barney now), so the Barney Run did take place - and I was there to do it.

Did I breach the dress code? I'm already in fifth place ... Photo by Hilary.

Five is not many to make a race (the senior boys' race set off two minutes after us), but at least I avoided the indignity of finding that my age exceeded the total age of the rest of the field. Two of the others (perhaps more?) were previous winners, whereas my best (and only) result was 52nd. I might have been a little out of my depth.

That wouldn't have mattered, of course, were it not for the fact that to justify the 250 mile trip to Barney I had offered to write a piece for Runner's World - and eventually been commissioned to write a large enough piece to make me feel that (notwithstanding seven law books and innumerable articles) I am finally becoming a Writer. And a celebrity too: I even had my own photographer for the day, to the bemusement of bystanders. They might even have thought I was a famous runner ...

So, no way to keep my performance out of the public domain. The world will know, one day.

I have a great deal of thinking to do about how I write this up - and this is not the place or the time to do it. Just make sure you see June Runner's World ... For now, though, here is the route and my time (and my heartrate!). I reckon my pace was exactly the same as in 1974, which leaves the big question unanswered - or perhaps it provides a very satisfactory answer, I don't know yet. Any suggestions?

As if racing a load of people one-third my age wasn't enough, at tea afterwards one of the masters said to his small children "You know I told you that Granddad used to teach here? Well, this man was one of the people he taught", indicating me. Should that make me feel old? Can't work it out. As for the lady dispensing the tea and coffee, when I proferred my cup: "A refill? Yes, thirsty work watching the running." Luckily for her (like the man in the hotel in Nottingham last Monday with his "jogging" comment - see post below) I was feeling benign ...

10 February 2010

Baby it's Cold Outside

Only 2.4 miles, to get home after taking the car to the garage for a health check (it's going to have to work hard on Friday, unless there's snow in Barnard Castle), so a small contribution to the weekly target. At least my calf is OK, helped by wearing compression socks - a fantastic invention, second only to Salbutamol in the impact it has had on my life.

I planned to take it easy anyway, so wore more than I usually would - but down at the field there was a covering of ice on the troughs, so I wrapped up well for the run and was rather pleased to find this extraordinary video to link to the post.

Salbutamol was first marketed in 1968, but hadn't penetrated as far as County Durham when I needed it. At school, the first half of the spring term (a misnomer if ever there was one) was devoted to cross-country running, frequently in near-arctic conditions. Because my lungs closed up as soon as I ran a couple of paces, an effect made much, much worse in cold air, I never got going enough to warm up or overcome the asthma. In addition, the school day was organised to take advantage of the daylight, so for boarders and day-boys (or "zunts", a word coined by deleting the first syllable "pe-" from a term that was, well, at least mildly derogatory, although I don't think we boarders had much reason to feel superior) the running started straight after lunch. Actually, the day-boys had their lunch half-an-hour earlier than us, so they had at least a short interlude to allow their mince curry or steak-and-kidney pudding, not to mention the dessert of semolina or something equally runner-unfriendly, to settle. If my memory serves, which it does increasingly rarely, my efforts at running consisted largely of walking, freezing and wheezing, with a stitch brought on by the rubbish in my stomach.

Now, with the annual cross-country competition on Friday and an old boys' team (including me) set to take part, I am informed that health and safety considerations might require the event to be cancelled if there is snow. In my day, it seemed to us that the more snow there was the greater the pleasure derived by certain members of staff from sending us out in it. but the world has changed: and so have I, otherwise I would hardly be contemplating a return to my alma mater (what, I wonder, is the oposite of "alma"? I think it might be more appropriate) to do the Barney Run again.

08 February 2010

They shoot horses, don't they?

Nottingham - where I stayed the night to be here to present a seminar today - seemed to offer excellent running routes, and I had plotted out a run from my hotel, along the canal towpath, across the Trent and along the south bank (heading east) past Notts Forest's ground and into what looked like open parkland. And, apart from the darkness which was a little unnerving along the towpath on the way out, it seemed to live up to the promise. I passed few other runners on the way out: as I doubled back under the river bridge a female runner passed over my head, but didn't catch me - she must have gone the other way.

On the riverside I had football stadia on both sides of the river and the cricket ground just behind me, with a row of boathouses to my left. A man was getting out of his car by one of them: "You're brave, in shorts" he called to me - I assured him it was fine once you got going. Then I passed the Environment Agency office - ideally placed, it seemed to me, to test the efficacy of their own flood defences.

I took it easy, but even so - inevitably, I suppose - I got a cramping feeling in my right calf which turned out to be more like a strain. Equally inevitably, it was nearly three miles out, just before I reached that pleasant-looking open space. Nothing for it but to turn round and retrace my steps.

I managed to run, slowly, most of the way back: 5.63 miles, in about 55 minutes. Very gentle, overall, and I only hope I haven't done serious damage to my calf. The whole purpose of running today was to ensure I was prepared for the race on Friday ...

Back at the hotel (the Strathdon, in Derby Road, which I'd recommend to anyone seeking a good-value place) a member of staff asked me if I'd been for a jog. Lucky for him I was in a good mood, so I just corrected him rather than killing him on the spot.

05 February 2010


Something has changed this morning. The bird feeders, which we've been filling twice a day for several weeks now, were still full from yesterday.