29 April 2010

Perfect day

I was out before breakfast for a run this morning for the first time in many months I have had a few days in London mostly to present courses, which is an increasingly rare event these days and looks as if it will be even rarer next year. It has also been an opportunity to put in some serious hours at the office and to take in a couple of social events: a reception on Monday for World Intellectual Property Day and a book launch yesterday.

I tried a run yesterday evening when I got back to my hotel, but it was one of those days when clearly it simply wasn't going to happen. That, even after I drank only orange juice at the book launch - where i also succeeded in producing the highest-scoring answer to the competition law quiz, but having collaborated with Birgit Clark of IPKat fame (strictly against the rules) had to be content with the glory - while an old friend took the prize, a bottle of champagne. This morning, though, was very different.

Heading first to Russell Square, I found runners doing laps and joined them for one-and-a-half. The Watch told me it was about a third of a mile round, and the idea of doing sufficient repeats to get up to a decent distance did not appeal. So I headed to Regent's Park, exploring some backstreets along the way.

 Down Albany Street towards teh turn-off to Camden, I set a cracking pace: it went as far as 6:08 minutes/mile, though I have some reservations about the accuracy of that measurement. It was only for an instant, anyway. I stopped for breath for a while, then jogged off along towards the zoo, stopping to consult a map of the park which revealed the interesting information that there's a running track just past the Zoological Society offices. It's open to the public, too, and although it's not a full 400 metres (the official web site says 387: the bends are very tight, and therefore short, but maybe the straights are long enough to make up the difference) but that doesn't matter for my sort of early-morning run. I did a few laps, fast down one straight (teh Watch showing well under 5min/mi, though probably only for a couple of paces) and jogging the rest of the lap: I could feel exactly how fit I am not.

Then I headed back for breakfast, already well over the time I had expected to be out but so enjoying myself I'd happily have kept running all morning. I took my shoes and socks off and ran on the grass ('brave man', remarked another passing runner), spotting a compound of camels in the Zoo but no other animals visible from my running route, then down the broad Walk, finding the Park more attractive than I had imagined - nearly 30 years ago I cycled through it every day on my way to work, but never stopped to appreciate it. The sun was out, I worked up a sweat, the trees are blossoming, flowers blooming, mood elevating - just perfect.

22 April 2010

Dancing barefoot

I have become a fair weather runner over the winter. Even now, the Warrior in me is keeping a low profile. Back in January, I was determined to run every day and fired myself up with doses of Dean Karnazes audio book, but then the snow came and somewhere along the way I found I was getting old.

It helps that the weather now looks spring-like. The sky is clear (though there are vapour trails again, at last), the sun bright, and the wind cool enough to keep me comfortable. Especially at Boston's pace. Once we reach the Ridgeway I take my shoes and socks off and enjoy the feeling of springy new grass under my feet. It's not a perfect carpet, by any means, and once past the car park the surface is distinctly rough and stoney, but a mile or so barefoot makes a great change.

This is Exerciser-standard running, but I've had a second email from that Steve Cram today about completing my entry to the Kielder Marathon in October: once I pay my £33 I'll be committed to rediscovering my Warrior side over the coming months.

11 April 2010

White Horse

I love the White Horse Half marathon. Usually. Well, to be truthful, it's often run in pretty unpleasant weather, and it does have a magic headwind that blows right at you however many turns you take. But four years ago it gave me my PB, being a nice flat course across which Brunel inconsiderately placed a railway line, necessitating a climb over a bridge on the way out and the way back.

Yesterday, we travelled to Witney - Cameron country! - to collect an eBay purchase, a rowing machine. The seller mentioned that he had taken up running and the conversation naturally turned in that direction. He asked if I would be running the White Horse Half the following morning. "It's not tomorrow" I said confidently. "Is it?" And of course it was.

I woke the next day with an incipient headcold. It really wasn't a great start. I lined up near the back of the start and set off very conservatively, running with Noel and allowing a lot of others (clubmates included) to pass. But after a mile I got the bit between my teeth and started cutting through the field. It felt good. I was only 8 minute miling, but the flow was very satisfying.  It worked well to about 8 miles (as this photo by John Harvey seems to show, and this one from later), then the wheels came off and I started going backwards. I tagged on with some very nice and helpful people, but their encouragement couldn't keep me running. I'd slowed to a jog for a mile or two, but then ended up doing rather a lot of walking. At about mile 11 a marshal offered me a bottle of water (I had taken plenty on board at the water stations, but it was warm and I guess a cold doesn't help hydration) and, although what I needed was a Mars Bar or a bowl of porridge I settled for what I could get.

I made it to the end, over 2 hours and in a state of distress that I haven't experienced in a race for a long time. Lack of mojo certainly had a lot to do with it, but I just got it all so totally wrong I can hardly believe it.

Still, I now have the inaugural Kielder Marathon to look forward to - I've got through the ballot and now have to find the entry fee. 17 October: time to find the mojo and do some serious training.