31 January 2011


The New York Times reports that state legislatures in the US are turning their attention to "distracted pedestrians", the foot-travelling equivalent of idiot motorists who imagine they can safely use a mobile phone and drive at the same time. Not that legislation seems to have stopped that over here - there are always people who don't think the law applies to them, for some reason. And as for distracted pedestrians - even if race organisers tell competitors not to block their ears, there's always one who chooses to ignore the instruction, and then can't hear the marshalls' instructions - or the car bearing down from behind, or the faster runner coming through ...

15 January 2011

Dancing on Air

It's been a bad week for running, with a trip to Cambridge to present a training course getting in the way of my own training, so this afternoon I got in only my second run of the week - a simple Murakami 10K along the usual route, it being too dark to go anywhere else - and returned elated. The same extraordinary sensation of running with all my running buddies going back years, on which I remarked on Tuesday, was there again - a transcendent experience. It was fast, it might have been stylish (I can't see), and it was hard work but effortless. I still have a lot of training to do before I start achieving goals this year - and even this 10K only reached my five-year-ago Marathon target pace, which I did manage to sustain for about 24 miles - but it's a long, long time since I felt so good about my running.

Great to have an excuse to include this extraordinary appearance by the greatest band in the world (arguably) on the Old Grey Whistle Test - where did Andy and Keith get their suits? I think I could do with one ...

14 January 2011

My Back Pages

There's work to be done - of course - but I always need to get my head into the right place first - AIG - which might explain why I stopped to make a cappuccino and found myself dancing round the kitchen singing along to this great song on the Dylan 30th anniversary album - a high-energy alternative to this original Byrds recording but sadly not to be found on You Tube. Dylan with Tom Petty, Neil Young, George Harrison, Eric Clapton - sublime - it would be great to be able to see it.

I was so much older then - I'm younger than that now.

11 January 2011

I didn't feel lonely til I thought of you

Club run this evening, and I was certainly ready for some fresh air and exercise after two days at my desk. I forgot my watch, though, so what follows is a figment of my imagination - no way of proving it ever happened. And I have no idea of how long it took - somewhere in the low 50s - although I know it was 6.35 miles, so it meets the Murakami criteria.

I started off conservatively, trying to be sociable, but soon found myself passing others and ended up with no-one in sight in front or behind. After the long route left the medium route there was an occasional glimpse of someone ahead, proving that I was heading the right way, but that was all until I reached the end. And to my surprise I was perfectly content with my own company - knowing that others would vicariously enjoy these miles as I would vicariously enjoy theirs, running buddies in absentia. No need for someone physically to run with, no need for encouraging words, no need even for encouraging tweets: for 50 or so minutes I was in my own world, listening to my breathing, concentrating on my running action, accompanied by a bunch of running mates from whom I draw strength and inspiration even when they aren't there. Brilliant!

But how much better if they were with me ...

09 January 2011

Slip Sliding Away

The Club's annual Christmas Pud Run didn't take place in two feet of fresh snow last month - if anyone had been able to get to the start they would probably have been wiped out by an out-of-control car, as this event is entirely on roads. But when the sun came up this morning (which seems to be a rare occurrence) I saw that the cars bore witness to a heavy frost - I had been at my desk since 5 am but hadn't noticed the weather at first. I drove to the start of the race without incident, but on climbing out of the car I found myself sliding around helplessly on the tarmac.

There were reports of cars having been seen in ditches, and one competitor had walked her bike for three miles, but that wasn't going to cause another postponement. We were cautioned abut the ice, and instructed to walk at one point, but that was all, so we lined up and headed off, seeking out the best grip in the circumstances. My feet slipped on the climb up Boar's Hill, and some wit suggested switching between spikes and road shoes. Some of the road surface was already ice-free, but in many places the grass verge offered better traction.

Ice apart, it was a glorious morning for a run,, as John Harvey's photo (below) shows. I contrived to run it  alone - a brief chat with Dave at the first water station being about the only talking I did for the duration. So my account of the race goes puff, flap, puff, flap, puff, flap, puff, flap ... It did me good to concentrate on my breathing (especially as it was cold enough for asthma to be a problem), but the revelation of the day was the compression tights that appeared the preceding day as a late Christmas present - wow, did they do the job.
It wasn't a day to skimp on the cold weather gear - there was still ice on the road on a shady stretch at mile 12 - so the famous green hat and gloves stayed on throughout. I'm concerned about the way my front foot is turning out in the photo, though: must try to deal with that. I felt hell-banging was the best approach when it was really icy, but at about mile 8 I managed to get in a couple of miles pose-running, or something like it, and later a little more, but I imagine that looks even uglier. It certainly put some strain on my Achilles and soleus, so I clearly have a long way to go before I can run far like that - before the luna sandals are going to work for me.

A satisfying day, then, and reassuring to prove to myself that a half-M is not only do-able, but comfortable, albeit over 20 minutes off my PB. I'm ready to start entering races again, I think, and maybe a PB will be on the cards later in the year? But I managed only half my target mileage this week, less in fact, so will have to pull a few double sessions to catch up again. Too many distractions, too much work to do!

01 January 2011


12 miles this morning, to complete my target of 40 for the last seven days. I'll count this as the first day of the new week too, so as to get the New Year off to a great start. I headed off east, past Alden Farm, out to Salt Box, the long gentle climb on knee-jarring concrete to where the railway once ran.

Then more concrete, heading for the junction with the Ridgeway, at which point my Blackberry decided it didn't have enough power to do anything more, so I carried its useless weight (OK, not a lot) for the next nine miles or so. On reaching the Ridgeway I carried on further to the east, leaving the Ridgeway to my right, pursuing my search for the Traffic cottage - though I realised there wasn't quite as much point in finding it if I couldn't take a photo - then taking a link south to connect with the Ridgeway again. The sign there read "Bury Down 4 miles", and I guessed I had the best part of another three miles from Bury Down before I reached home, which seemed like a reasonable distance in total.

I stopped to capture not the scenery - which leaves just a little to be desired at these points, unless you like straight concrete roads - but the overcast sky, which I thought Alex, with whom I ran this route, oh, about a million times, would appreciate seeing if the sun isn't shining too brightly on his computer screen over in California ...

Later the damp weather turned to drizzle, which only made me feel better about this crazy New Year's Day run - crazy considering the lack of miles in my running log over the past few weeks. A few dog-walkers out, who didn't seem too startled when I wished them a happy New Year - often people look at you as if you're a dangerous psychopath when you do that sort of thing (are there any psychopaths who aren't dangerous, I wonder?). One group of three walkers jumped out of their skins when I greeted them as they hadn't heard me approaching from behind (puff, slap, slap, puff, slap, slap), and later on I fell in with a Geordie cyclist who seemed to be making heavy weather of a climb, so with a bit of acceleration I could stay level with him (and still talk!) for a short distance. At least he caught and eventually passed me, unlike two cyclists I caught a little later who questioned the sense of riding bikes along the Ridgeway if running were faster. I do like to overtake cyclists ... carrying around all that useless metal.

So, the choice of title and song is heavy with irony (just in case you didn't notice) and I'm still holding Paper Sun in reserve for when I find the cottage, if the weather justifies it - and I'll have to hope I don't end up being forced to choose Hole In My She, or perhaps Mr Fantasy if I never find it. It's something to keep me going!