26 June 2010

Born To Run

A friend recommended that I read Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen by Christopher McDougall. I read the author's article about the Tarahumara in Runner's World years ago and was inspired - and the book is utterly compelling, though written in a style as breathless as me after one of my numerous unsuccessful attempts to run 5K in 20 minutes. I've torn through it, and find myself itching to run ...

Surprised by some of the things he has to say about Karno, though.

Download Born To Run MP3.

25 June 2010


If only I hadn't left my bike at the station on Wednesday evening (after a much-extended journey home because of the theft of that copper cable - see previous entry) I thought to myself as a lady rode
past me with a cheery "good morning". I'd managed to run about four miles from home into Didcot, making sure Ianded on the midfoot every pace, and there had been no complaints from my legs until I reached
the shady wooded section through the outskirts of the town where Dr Beeching so thoughtfully removed the anachronistic railway track enabling in due course a cycleway to be laid down instead.

In fact the cycleway leaves the route of the railway about here, climbing to a summit designed to facilitate access from an old railway bridge that still carries a road, then plunges down into the wooded cutting. The climb was OK because I reduced my pace to a walk, but the descent played havoc with my calves and Achilles tendons. I leant agaainst a lamppost to stretch them, but a few trial jogging paces told me it would not be wise to try more than a gentle walk, which is what I was doing when that lady cycled past.

I am however rather pleased with four miles at about nine minute mile pace. Serious Marathon training is due to start on Monday, so I have to hope that the prescription for that day - "4 miles gentle" - is within my reach.

23 June 2010

Copper Kettle

Everything I dislike about travelling by train came back to me this morning. The train was late in, but then it stopped outside Iver and then a short distance further on, for a total of nearly an hour. Signalling problems, the train manager vouchsafed.

This afternoon, while most of the country is engrossed in world cup football, the following arrived by email from the train operator:

Dear Sir or Madam:

Due to the theft of signalling cable at West Drayton, an extremely limited train service is able to operate between London Paddington and Reading.
Network Rail?s Engineering Team are working as hard as possible to resolve this issue, but due to the amount of cable removed, disruption is likely to continue until 2200 this evening.

If you are planning on travelling today, we strongly advise that you check www.firstgreatwestern.co.uk for further information.
Whilst we will make every effort to operate the advertised train service, we do strongly recommend that you leave extra time for your journey.
We apologise for any potential disruption to your journey.
I am particularly interested in the implied suggestion that rail travel might be an optional luxury, that customers might be simply making plans rather than relying on them actually running trains. Still, it's not exactly the train operator's fault that thieves have taken the cable, any more than it was BT's fault when half our village lost telecommunications when a substantial length of cable went missing. It's not even possible to suggest that security was lax, because it must be nigh-on impossible to guard every attractive piece of scrap metal in the country: the lead from church roofs, if any remains, is also attractive to the particular strain of scrap metal merchant who imagine that they are at liberty to enrich themselves at the expense of everyone trying to live an honest life.

Would fibre optic technology provide a complete answer? Certainly, you can't simply take up the copper cable and put in fibre, but once the switch is made perhaps there'd be nothing worth stealing. I suppose the copper is all being sold on and eventually, thoroughly laundered, arriving in China, where much of it is probably incorporated in consumer goods and shipped back, basically, to those from whom it was stolen in the first place.

17 June 2010

Fourth Time Around

I finished reading The Shadow of the Wind yesterday, and it left me a mess. Placed by critics in a bewildering range of categories, I came to see it by the end as a Bildungsroman, which is not the sort of book I want to be reading at my age. So I returned to Murakami, and I'll be listening to Dean in between times.

It is the fourth time I have read What I Talk About When I Talk About Running and it never fails to get to me. In chapter 1 he is coming back to running after a period of running blues. Any blues in my life have not come from running - perhaps from a lack of running - but I can instantly relate to returning to the activity I love. Instead of closing the book at the end of chapter 1 and going to sleep, I felt like getting out of bed and going for a run - very Karno. But, being too old for that sort of eccentricity, I did in fact go to sleep.

I've been thinking of running as a way to forget, which works for a story I am trying to tell: I like to run to clear my mind of extraneous thoughts, and I know that once - only once - I emptied my mind altogether, though only for a few seconds. Murakami writes about creating a void, and he relishes the solitude of running - which I realise is one of the aspects of it that appeals to me too. Well, there will be a lot of solitude, and a lot of running, over the next sixteen weeks as I prepare for the next Marathon.

Boring Sony! It's doing them no harm, surely. Doesn't this article in last weekend's FT say it all?

Download from Amazon: Fourth Time Around (Album Version)

This guy's not bad - but no-one sings Dylan like Dylan (which perhaps isn't altogether a bad thing).

Coaching for Conservation

The culmination of all Sarah's work so far in Botswana: she can be glimpsed behind Prince William when he's unsuccessfully trying to "parp" (Boris Johnson's preferred expression) the vuvuzela (to the Prince's right, in the distance, wearing light coloured trousers and orange tee-shirt).She saw the kid bringing the vuvuzela into the stadium, and thought about taking it from him: not only would that have destroyed a great photo opportunity, it would have created a very different one with Sarah wresling the horn from a small boy - not a good look.

She says any publicity is good publicity - though she didn't mean the photo op that didn't happen: I think that would refute the axiom - so here's the clip.

Who'd have thought she'd follow introducing rounders to the Maldives, and teaching them to swim, with football coaching in Botswana?

14 June 2010

You're not smiling

Regulators must be pretty unwelcome at the best of times. The lady from the Solicitors Regulation Authority seems nice enough, though I haven't spoken to her, but we'd rather not be entertaining her. Still, all she's done is ask for three files from each of us to peruse. I'm just a little satisfied about being asked for a trade mark opposition file with 1200 pages (and two CD ROMs) of evidence.

Fantastic song, not sure about the sheep.

08 June 2010

The beginning of the end

Last week, I finally accepted that it was time to surrender my book to the publishers. Given that this is the whole point of writing a book, it's strange that it should be so hard to do, but it is a big wrench - and of course as soon as it's gone you think of something else to add, or something to change. So actually there was a false start, but after a couple of second thoughts I told them it was final.

This, of course, is not the end. That will come in eight or nine months, when the work appears in print, and even then there will be an argument for saying that the end will really be when the royalty cheque arrives. (Or the bank transfer, I suppose, these days.) It is not even the beginning of the end, because I have had an author's questionnaire to complete and other bits of information to provide, and will have proofs to review and queries to answer. So in truth it is only the end of the beginning. But it's still good to have got here.