23 October 2011

Saturday in the Park

Another four seconds faster. Boring conventional footwear. Any connection?

Fast enough that I felt ill at the finish line: not something that has happened for a long time. The sign of a good 5K.

18 October 2011

I'll feel a whole lot better

I jogged this morning, I admit it. Just a short jog, to get back from the garage having dropped off the car for a service, but I gave blood late yesterday afternoon and my left arm is probably only half full. I thought I could manage a gentle jog of under three miles, and indeed I did, but I arrived home in the throes of an asthma attack. That might have been partly because the air was much colder than it has been so far this season. Anyway, good to have done even a short distance, and a superb autumn morning with a lovely blue sky, bright sun, and turning leaves.

12 October 2011

Reconnez Cherie

Two elements meet, merge together: The Elegance of the Hedgehog, a wonderful, humane, thought-provoking book, with its meditations about the nature of time, and an old packet of coffee. The coffee came from my mother-in-law's house, which we have been clearing gradually since she died: she left two presentation packs of coffees of the world, nine different varieties in each (the same nine, pretty much). Some had been consumed, some were open, others were still sealed and (I imagined) should be in reasonable shape. For my morning coffee, I took out an Ethiopian mocha that sounded promising, only to find it had been opened before. The packet bore the legend "best before March 2006". A still-unopened packet of Columbian will have to take its place: its best before date is under three years ago, and it tastes fine.

2006 was once unimaginably far in the future. Now it is too long ago for a packet of coffee to have remained drinkable.

09 October 2011

The Park

Fourth Park Run, and my best time yet - 23:45 officially, a whole 54 seconds off the previous best. Four more weeks and I will be under 20 minutes. No, I know life's not like that.

Arriving - unlike last time - early for the start, I had a classic conversation with an old running friend I hadn't seen for a while. While I waited for a break in the conversation he was having with another clubmate, I heard all about a litany of injuries which sounded remarkably like mine, so when finally I was able to speak to him I only needed to say "I was going to say long time, no see, how are you doing? - but I don't need to now."

I got to the front of the start - forty-odd participants (not competitors - this is not a race!) to avoid being stuck behind youngsters along the narrow riverside path - and slowed a little after the first couple of hundred yards. Gary, Andrew and some others came past, but I wasn't bothered, except that I have become accustomed to Andrew suffering from injuries that allowed me to outpace him. Clearly he's better now. And that was it. One photo shows me just being passed by Gary along by the lock, another in good shape along the road section, and another looking anxious about the finish. The compression tights do a great job, although I am concerned with the rate at which the stitching is coming out of the waistband. Maybe it's a problem with my waist - I have resolved not to eat flapjack unless I have run at least 5K already that day, which might help. After all, it's runner's food - that's the whole point.

My huaraches, as always, attracted some comments, and John was fascinated enough to add a photo of one of them to the photostream. Thanks for omitting my other foot with the big black toe nail ...

An excuse to revisit one of my favourite albums, and favourite songs from it, from my teens. It's really rather a good piece of music, especially coming back to it after 40 years.

04 October 2011


That run in Moscow on Saturday has started something. Yesterday I cycled to and from the station, and ran between Paddington and the office both ways (but recorded only the first cycle leg, and then only in part and it isn't very interesting). Going in I followed the canal, and took a meandering route through Regent's Park: coming home I left myself only 20 minutes to catch my train, so took the most direct route - which got me there in under 13 minutes. A useful piece of intelligence for future use, but I'd prefer to go via the park and canal when I can.

01 October 2011

Песня о Друге

I had to work hard to persuade myself to get out for a run this morning, especially as it had rained overnight. Yesterday I had travelled from London to Moscow, to give some tuition in intellectual property to Russian students reading for external London University LLBs (and doing Russian law degrees in parallel), and my old friend Viktor had met me and taken me for a typical Russian dinner followed by a short tour of some Moscow sights - particularly Red Square.

He had suggested that a suitable route for a run would be the Bul'varnoe Kol'tso, which is an inner ring road comprising a series of boulevards. I had been sceptical, which further increased my inclination to stay in bed: but having forced myself to run it, I can say that Moscow is one of the best cities in which I have ever run. Most of the distance was in the middle of the boulevards, which resemble elongated parks. Traffic free until you come to the end of one and the beginning of another - and there might be an extensive open square to negotiate between them. Russian drivers have an extraordinary attitude to traffic lights - red is not even regarded as advisory - and speed limits, although come to think of it I have seen none indicated. It seems that if you have a collision you must leave your car where it is, placing a warning triangle behind it (but so close as to afford no advance warning). You can then wait hours for the police to show up. If you have contrived to connect with another car side-to-side, a very difficult form of collision to engineer but one at which Muscovites appear to excel, this means two cars in the middle of the road, two triangles, and huge disruption. Still, it wouldn't bother me  if I was trying to run through it. The drag down  Tverskaya was less impressive: perhaps it lost its central reservation a while ago and became a 12 lane road - but any road that leads to Red Square has to have something to commend it. I was in fact off course here, and realise I should have gone past the Kropotkinskaya metro station - there is a name to conjure with! - but I wanted to do Red Square in the morning light. It did not disappoint, but my Blackberry did, refusing on account of damp (that is, sweat) to take photos.

After several hours talking intellectual property to a very switched-on and impressive bunch of students, I rounded off the day with a theatre trip. Two hours of which I scarcely understood a single word, but it was magical and exuded a real sense of occasion. Billed as a spectacle, it was the show put together by Yuri Lubimov as a memorial to Vladimir Vysotsky, which the authorities banned in 1980 after Visotsky's death (they also prohibited a public funeral, anxious that it would empty out the Olympic stadium: I believe it did anyway). They tried to put it on in 1981 and the letter from Andropov, then head of the KGB, telling them not to do so was reproduced in the programme.
The cast sang and recited poems, and stood or sat while recordings of the man himself were played from the back of the theatre: the only thing on the set was a block of theatre seats, suspended from chains so they could be raised and lowered and on which the cast could when appropriate sit, as if at a Vysotsky concert, and also a very large sheet which could be used to cover the seats and on one occasion many of the cast too. There's more about the evening here if you are interested, including the cast list at least one of whom is a very famous Russian actor - and a great political mimic, it seems. Even I recognised his Medvedev and Putin.
When the cast came to the front of the stage to take their bows, having been sitting on the floor leaning against the back wall, they left a guitar standing against the wall. Attendants and (I think) members of the audience handed the actors bouquets, which is not in itself unusual, but in greater numbers than I have ever seen: and the actors took the flowers to the back of the stage and piled them by the guitar, which it became clear was there to represent Visotsky. It soon disappeared under the pile, and I could hardly imagine a more touching tribute. Thirty years on, too. Combined with a memorable run, it made it a day on which to be glad to be alive.
To round off the day, the evasive lens fell out of my glasses as I set off to cross a Moscow street on the way back to the hotel. Viktor recruited three local lads who obligingly moved their car so the headlights illuminated the area, and eventually one of them fished the lens out of a puddle. A memorable end to a very memorable day.