27 March 2012

Overture in the Italian style

I found a nice comfortable, peaceful, place to catch up on a little work this afternoon. There were no phones to ring to distract me, no emails, no chatter, although I was with a couple of hundred other people. There was beautiful music, which I was able to listen to while working my way through my to do list. I came away feeling refreshed and satisfied with the work I had done. Best of all, it was free.

I went to a BBC Radio 3 concert at the Maida Vale studios: an all-Schubert programme, because Radio 3 is having a Schubert week - the Overture in the Italian Style in D, the Overture to Alfonso and Estrella, and the work formerly known as the unfinished symphony which Brian Newbould had completed - not the first person to stand in for the regrettably unavailable composer. And it seems not the massive task you might imagine: Schubert left sketches for about three-quarters of the scherzo and repurposed the finale as the entr'acte from Rosamunde, so re-assembling the four-movement symphony was certainly do-able. And it seems to have been done pretty well, to my untutored ear.

I'll be looking out for further opportunities to spend a quiet couple of weekday afternoon hours catching up on work.

Light my fire

Just reading this Runners World piece makes me want to lace up my huaraches and get outside - that, and a beautiful sunny but still crisp spring morning.

Let's stick together

The Stick, a hopelessly weak trade mark unless you can get into the market and carve out a substantial niche in it very quickly before the name becomes generic (and the branding is confused I'm not even sure who makes it), looked like a great idea when I first saw it. Finally, yesterday, after hobbling from Paddington to Portland Place, taking mini-strides and walking on my forefoot because of the pain in my knee, and leaving a phone message for Sharon asking for a treatment session at her earliest convenience, I bought one.

I had to buy a new inner tube anyway, and Cycle Surgery and Runners Need, listed as a The Stick stockist, share premises in Great Portland Street. There on the floor, with a discarded air, were three The Sticks, each a different model, including the grey-handled Sprinter that I reckoned was what I needed (though a Travel model might have done equally well, perhaps even better because it would be more portable). I handed over my cash (about the same as an hour with Sharon, though without the conversation) and pushed it into my shoulder bag, one end sticking out, and I remarked to the sales assistant that I could cope with looking eccentric - what runner can't?

I resisted the temptation to start using it in the meetings which made up the rest of my afternoon, resorted to taking the bus to Paddington because my knee really was that painful, and also refrained from trying it out during the train journey, where instead I found myself engaged in a lengthy conversation with Stuart, from Cholsey, who had spent two hours travelling between his work in Oxford and home on account of train doors that refused to open and let him out on his first attempt to detrain at his home station, compounded by his being advised to take the wrong train for the second attempt: he explained to me that he was a Manchester United fan, quite unnecessarily given (a) the badge of allegiance he was wearing in the form of a tee-shirt and (b) his, and its, sheer size. He predicted a 5-0 victory over Fulham and I promised to look for the score and think of his jubilation later that evening. Well, they won, and had they failed to do so at home that would have been remarkable, but it seems that Fulham almost had a penalty in the closing minutes of the game. Still, Stewart, I'm pleased that you're pleased.

I thought The Stick would sort out my lower leg problems and bring Achilles under control, but I started with a few strokes across the inside of my knee. I assume that the problem is medial ligament or cartilage, which wouldn't be susceptible to direct massage treatment, but after a couple of short sessions with The Stick yesterday evening, and the application of ibuprofen gel before retiring, I got up this morning and descended the stairs with not a hint of knee pain. I can't believe it's that easy, and I'm taking half-an-hour of Sharon's time later  in the week anyway, but The Stick has already been life-changing in a small way. Highly recommended.

24 March 2012

The Warrior (Abingdon Parkrun)

This is real progress. After a week during which I didn't have the confidence to risk aggravating my left knee (complaining after that ten-miler on Sunday) or Achilles so abstained completely from running, I feared that this morning's Parkrun would be more than I could handle. I'd taped the uncomfortable parts of both legs yesterday, though, and they felt a whole lot better. Just in case, though, I added knee support and compression tights to my ensemble. And after last Sunday's outing in my new cushioned shoes left my knee hurting, huaraches were needed - but I knew I'd have to take great care to avoid Achilles problems.

I don't think ahead about how I should run an event like this. Next weekend, for the White Horse Half, I'll give it some more consideration, but this is just 5K ... Don't go out too fast, though, that's a crucial lesson. I didn't have Hugo to pull me along today, so I could do it at my own pace.

That pace still turned out to be surprisingly fast. And not just in terms of minutes per mile: I can't yet accurately estimate 180 paces a minute, but I think I got close, and I could feel the difference. Landing on my forefeet, directly (or pretty well directly) below my centre of gravity, there was noticeably less strain on my lower legs. My knee felt OK too, and my confidence built as I got into my stride. Along by the moorings after the lock I passed a few others, and even squeezed past some more runners along the narrow path leading to the meadow. The only problem was the dew which was lubricating the interface between my feet and the sandals, causing some unwelcome lateral movement - not good on an uneven path with the Thames a couple of feet away.

My one, two, one, two breathing rhythm sounds pretty dramatic when the cadence is so fast, and it must have been a bit disconcerting when I came up behind another runner. But it was all going well, and a glance at Garmin told me that it was a good pace - it began with a 7 rather than 8 or 9 which is what I usually see, even on a 5K. I picked my way carefully along the stony track from the meadow at the eastern end of the course to the tarmac road by Kingfisher Barn, and fell in with a lady runner who pulled ahead as we made the sharp turn (I run wide there, to avoid an uneven-looking, huarache-unfriendly apex) before I got back alongside her down towards the lock. As we left the metalled surface for grass and bare earth again she seemed to slow, and with the narrow riverside path coming up I decided to clear a couple of other runners so I had some space in front of me - both, I think, with ears plugged and presumably some music masking the sound of what was going on around them, including me puffing my way past.

A little later, as I picked my way along the stony section for the second time, one of them came past again. A  big guy, he was making quite a noise as his feet made contact with the ground - probably much as I have done for many years - and striding much further than me. The contrast was striking: I felt as if I were leaving no sign of my passage. I stayed close to his shoulder on the long, long drag to the finish, acknowledging Paul (who'd finished first and was going back to meet one of his children who was also taking part) and another guy who offered a spot of encouragement, advising me that there was about 400 metres to go - as I could have worked out for myself. When I judged that I was close enough to give it a go, and feeling better than I could ever have hoped, I accelerated. So did the guy in front, when (despite the music) he heard me coming. I accelerated more. I was flying. He seemed to realise there was no point in trying.

At the finish he wasn't far behind, and we shared that great near-death moment that marks the end of a good fast run, bent over as we waited for our breathing and heartrates to settle down again and the nausea to pass before shaking hands and registering our finishing places (17th for me - unprecedented - and a PB for this event, by 37 seconds). Then my female running companion came to thank me for the race, and to remark that she thought perhaps she needed similar footwear (how will I feel when for the first time I am not the only crazy tarahumara-imitator at a race?) as she'd been very impressed at how I had taken off. As I was.

And after a period of, we guessed, ten years I met up with my old running mate John, still living in the same place and from what he said maintaining a running (and racing) schedule that corresponds to some of my wildest dreams. He and some other Didcot Runners incorporate the Parkrun in a 20 mile loop - which is a seriously crazy way to do it. But I have a feeling, now that I have at least overcome fears of exacerbating injuries even if I haven't quite overcome the injuries themselves, he's just the person I need to help me rediscover my inner warrior.

18 March 2012

Halfway to Paradise

Well, halfway to realising my ambition to run to the White Horse and back. And I do not mean a local public house of that name - or, for that matter, the one in New York that Mary Hopkin sang about. But Basher didn't record a song called Halfway to the White Horse, so I have a great excuse to listen to this great single for the first time in several decades.

So, what to report about it? Having missed my planned long Sunday morning run, then spent time opening the engine compartment on the MGF - so much easier on those boring front-engined cars with bonnets that you simply pop up - to give access to the fuel and fuel pump. This is all because it ran dry the other day: there's a moral to this story - don't carry on driving an MGF until the petrol warning light comes on, because IT DOESN'T HAVE ONE. And if you do run it dry, there's a strong chance it won't start again easily: either the filter will be blocked, or it will need about 4 gallons in the tank before it believes that you have refilled it, or the fuel pump will have burnt out from running with nothing to pump. Which is what I think has happened here, because when I changed the filter (£11.99 and a quick dash into town,  having ascertained that Interpart had it in stock - when I arrived it was on the counter waiting for me) we turned the ignition on with the pipes to the filter disconnected, to see if the pump would do its work, and nothing came out. New pumps seem to be around £250. I found one from a breaker at one-tenth that, a price commensurate with what the car cost us - £25 less than the price of a second-hand fuel pump.

Then, after lunch, I foolishly turned on the TV to watch the BBC's highlights of the Australian Grand Prix, and of course I fell asleep, so my long run didn't get underway until well after 4 o'clock. The evenings are at least light enough for that sort of thing now, and Hugo is building endurance so half-way to the White Horse was well within his capability. And within mine, too, though I stopped a few times, more to take in the spring countryside and a superb view of the power station in the light of the setting sun than for a break. I should have kept my pace even lower, I think, then I'd have had no trouble running all the way. The troublesome tendon stood up to a lot of midfoot striking very well, although the cushioned shoes must have helped: a couple of times I resorted to heel-striking for a short break, but only temporarily. My left knee is the weak point at the moment:Iran with a knee support on it, and it gave no trouble until I took that off again. Now it's stiff and uncomfortable.

An encouraging session, and a satisfactory mileage for the weekend.

17 March 2012

Waiting for the sun

Yesterday I planned a long run, if I could get away from the exigencies of work for an hour or so. Then I had a better idea: after reading a piece in RW about the benefits of twice-daily training sessions, I'd fit in a longish run and then some of Rachael's Repeats up and down the road to Upper Farm. But not until the weather looks a bit nicer, I thought - and it never did. The weather forecast has been wildly inaccurate these past couple of days.

I thought about an early morning run today, but it was raining when I got up, so no doubling-up training sessions today either. But I did get out at about 1 o'clock, and did 7.14 miles, so I could recalculate my weekly mileage by deducting 3.1 and adding today's distance. I'll do the same tomorrow - but will have to do about 20 miles to boost the total mileage to the desired level. It is, however, quite possible. Let's see.

15 March 2012


Five jobs - my conservative estimate of how many I have - is a pretty demanding lifestyle. My old commuting buddy, now Information Commissioner, remarked years ago that I was a paradigm case of someone with a portfolio career, and I was doing fewer jobs then - although one was full-time, or supposed to be anyway, which might have been the problem. But it was always thus: it was worse when I was a councillor and a City solicitor, I suppose - bad enough years earlier when I was a law student and university newspaper editor.

After attending to two of my jobs today, and spending a little time being a baker, I devoted an hour late this afternoon to what I would really like to make my profession: running. But in combination (to make it fit into the day) with feeding the horses. Multitasking. Five and a half not great miles, but not junk either, and my 40-a-week target just in sight - with a big effort tomorrow, if my clients allow me the opportunity, I might be able to do it. And if not this week, next - but then it will be time to up the target.

13 March 2012

Ain't it strange

I set off for this evening's club run without enough time and without enough petrol in the tank. I mean the car's tank, although mine felt pretty empty too. The car started to refuse to accelerate before I had even left the village, so I turned round and trickled back home at idling speed. As long as I kept off the throttle it was content to keep going. By  the time I had switched cars I was in even more of a hurry, of course, and thought about aborting the trip especially as there seemed to be a run going through the village which I might have joined in - though they seemed to be racing, not socialising, in which case it was an odd place to be at that time, after dark, on a March evening.

But I had another mission now, to fill a can with petrol to get the MG working (although this morning it transpires that five quids'-worth isn't enough to fool it into thinking that it has enough to run on), so I carried on, and club members began streaming out of the doors at Tilsley Park as I arrived, ready to go (except for having forgotten my watch) so I tagged along. I had taken the precaution of studying the route, so even the loss of my handwritten crib sheet in the course of putting on gloves and knucklelights was just a slight hiccup. I ran with Andrew and Des for a while, and probably bored them by talking about Silverstone, then moved on to the next group, ran through them down Oxford Road and found myself in the company of a guy I didn't recognise, who introduced himself as Andrew. We ran together far enough for me to bore him, too, and he was probably relieved when the medium and long routes diverged.

I had eschewed huaraches for this evening, but was managing a nice forefoot strike until Achilles pointed out in his inimitable fashion that I had to remember his weakness, so I did the long loop round the east and north of Abingdon - Audlett Drive, Twelve Acre Drive and Dunmore Road - on my heels: and I did it at a fair lick, too, though I have no idea about actual pace. Garmin doesn't seem to want to oblige with a map for this activity - I carefully plotted the route and saved it but can't seem to get it into the record for the run. Never mind, I don't know the time exactly, I guessed at one hour on the basis of the time when I arrived at the track and the time I was back in the car, but I do know the distance - 6.9 miles as plotted on the Garmin website. A half-M on Sunday obviously helps boost the mileage, but even so, and with a rest day on Monday, 23.1 miles in the first half of the week starting on Saturday is very satisfying.

11 March 2012


2,943rd out of 6,351 means I finished in the top half of the field, and 2:03:23 means I was still justified in lining up in the curiously imprecise 1-2 hours section for the start (at the very back of it). But that wasn't what the Silverstone Half Marathon today was about for me.
More than the time and the place, it was about completing the distance without problems, proving that Achilles, if not perfect, is at least able to tolerate exercise. But out of deference to the troublesome tendon, I did run in nice new springy Mizuno Wave Riders rather than Achilles-unfriendly huaraches - yesterday morning's outing in them was enough for one weekend.
Above all, though, today was about a privilege that I suspect relatively few runners enjoy: running with my daughter in her first (and, she insisted, last) half-Marathon - and her boyfriend, Phil. For different reasons Tor and I didn't want to burn up the track, while Phil was on for a faster run: my attempts to keep the two of us to nine minute miles didn't work out brilliantly, though, as Garmin gave some odd indications of pace - I think I was demanding a greater degree of precision than the GPS system can deliver. one minute it reported that we were doing 8:30-something, then without any noticeable change in pace it was 9:00+. To compound matters I had forgotten how to set the pace for the virtual trainer, which would have been a useful resource for an exercise like this. Still, up to Mile 9 we didn't exceed 9 minutes per mile, which isn't a bad outcome. It slipped somewhat after that, but it was very warm - uncomfortably warm for running, which is unusual in an English March, isn't it?
The race was, frankly, a disappointment. All the things I hate about big commercial events: participants who don't just fail to observe etiquette, but don't even appear to realise such a thing exists in the world of distance running; a high proportion who cut themselves off from interaction with their fellow competitors by means of earphones and music (a couple of such competitors badly obstructed me on one of the bridges, which are inevitably bottlenecks anyway); many bored marshals offering no encouragement (the few exceptions not enough to make up for their uninterested colleagues); spectators there to cheer on their friends and family but not strangers. It made me anticipate the forthcoming White Horse half - organised and run by enthusiasts for enthusiasts - even more keenly.
The course was also disappointing, with not even one full lap of the circuit. I had foolishly thought that four laps would do it, but of course you'd have Scott Overall and David Weir (and others) lapping some backmarkers four times. Even Tor and I would probably have lapped some people a couple of times. This is a different matter from the 10K that I have done here a couple of times. So the course, as recorded by Garmin, looks like a scribble in red pen on a map of the circuit. Much of it, I'm afraid, could have been anywhere. And running half a lap the wrong way was, to me and probably most fans of motor racing, bizarre.
Maybe it was the nature of the event, or maybe it was just a consequence of running with offspring, but I didn't socialise. Perhaps my one exchange was to say sorry to a guy who I didn't notice coming, so I nearly pushed him into the pit wall - I apologised for doing a Schumacher on him.
I wanted to get a photo of Tor crossing the finish line, and after running every step of the way she was pretty tired by the time we reached the 13 mile marker (which Garmin put at about 13.25, having told me all the markers were some distance out - I wonder where the truth lies?). I planned to put on a burst of speed, finish, and turn round to snap her on my Blackberry crossing the line. I even woke the stupid device up (it has, incidentally, been much more responsive and less liable to hang on me since I deleted Google Maps, which was the most memory-intensive program on it) a few hundred yards out, and switched it to camera in readiness. I crossed the line, stopped my watch, and turned round - and there she was, right behind me, having matched my (admittedly modest) burst of speed. You can however see the official photos here.
Phil had finished some 11 minutes ahead of us. The three of us hobbled back to the car together, thoroughly exhausted by the heat and the effort.
An historic day for me, but not one to be repeated - Tor will never run her first race again, and indeed claims it will be her last anyway, and I don't intend to do this event again with her or otherwise. I feel as if I am back on track to do longer events, and while I hope the future holds many Marathons in interesting places around the world I will stick to doing big city events as part of a tourism exercise and do my racing (if the word can honestly be applied to what I do) at more intimate events.

More Than This

A disastrous Park Run yesterday - stopped twice to retie my huaraches, failed to prevent Hugo making a large deposit in the middle of the course (at about half-distance) and, picking up a discarded burger container, had to poop-scoop on the second lap (and divert to the bin in the car park before proceeding to the finish). But Achilles made it to the end, which was what I needed. The time is immaterial, but now I know that there is more than this to come (cue for a superb performance from Robyn Hitchcock: I remember him starting a show, comprising the whole of his 1984 album I Often Dream of Trains, with a monologue about a period he spent in Bergen, likening it to Seattle (especially in its greenness), and saying that he would play a song from that era - and, to what seemed like universal amazement, this was it. Possibly the last source one might imagine him raiding - the Beatles, Syd, Pink Floyd, the Byrds, sure, but Roxy Music? I think he shows what a very nice song it is.

06 March 2012

Seems like a long time

This evening's club run felt sweeter because it's been such a long time since I had such a satisfying one. A new pair of Mizuno Wave Riders helped: you only get to run the first time in a new pair of shoes once, and I when they arrived in the post today I knew I would have to get a few miles on the virtual clock before Sunday. I chose the long route - not the extra long one - so I would complete a Murakami today, as I did yesterday and will do again tomorrow, all being well. I need to prove to myself that I can complete a half-Marathon, and on today's performance I think I should be OK. It won't be fast and it won't be pretty, but I will get it done - and feel good when I have, and - I hope - while I am doing it.

I don't think I'll be running in minimalist footwear on Sunday, though. I'm hoping that Achilles and his close neighbours will tolerate 5K on Saturday morning with my huaraches.


Six days away from race day is not the right time to start to prepare for a half-Marathon, but I prefer to think that I am checking my ability to do one rather than training for it. It will be slow and it might be painful but I should be able to get to the end.

Lunch - the quarterly, or thereabouts, ROMEO lunch, for people, almost exclusively men, involved in the classical music world - was great carbo-loading (large-calibre spaghetti) but not-so-good hydration (half a litre of wine each, with an option of three beers instead. Whatever happened to Lent?). But that does not account for the curious wiggles in my route to Paddington afterwards. That's down to Garmin, or the satellites.

Running home from the station is radical therapy, and perhaps the first time I have done it (I've run the other way a few times). The elevation gain, modest though it may be, is not welcome on the way home at the end of the day, but at least the pedestrian route easily avoids Hagbourne Hill which is such a drag on a bicycle. The evening was clear and the moon almost full, so the fact that - fool that I am - I had left my Knucklelights at home did not make as much difference as it might. I have done this journey in less light at times when the sun was supposed to be up, and I cast an impressive shadow in the moonlight which my BlackBerry was quite incapable of photographing.

Achilles complained a bit, as I'd expected, but not nearly as much as at other times in the last couple of years. Apart from the drop and climb where the Hagbourne footpath intersects with the old railway line, the only steep climb was leaving Upton, which I know from bitter experience is nasty on a bike, though then the uneven surface is a big part of the problem. So I walked that to prevent straining him. Actually, I tried something else too, which I'd read about on someone's blog: I ran backwards. I'm not sure what the benefits might be, but it provided no respite for Achilles so I stopped and walked forwards again. I also thought - and this is something of a first for me - that it was just a bit daft, running backwards in the moonlight up a hill along a cart track with ruts and (as I discovered later) deep puddles. Especially as I had just encountered a dogwalker, who inevitably came along just as nature bade me to stop for a moment. In fact I met two dogwalkers, both almost invisible in dark clothes (one even in camouflage, I think) with no light or reflective material. I also met a cyclist, fully illuminated, so no complaints there: but only one? That seemed a low score.

Having found two large, deep, puddles - thankfully only in the last mile or so - I arrived home squelching and with heavy feet. Before showering (yes, after a run I always take a shower, whether I need it or not) I weighed myself as I had run, then sans backpack, then sans shoes as well. 12 stone 5 lb, then 11 stone 9, and finally 11 stone 5. Well, these scales (on which I was weighing myself as a child when my weight was somewhere around 4 stone) don't seem fantastically accurate, and are hard to read, but a ten-pound backpack is quite a thing to be lugging around. It contained a pair of black Oxford shoes and a new tracksuit top and bottoms which I had bought en route to Paddington, and imagined I might wear if the run became too cold - it didn't, though it was a gelid evening with the temperature approaching freezing, there being a significant frost this morning. Shame it wasn't cooler, in fact, then perhaps the puddles would not have soaked my feet. I wished I'd taken my Huaraches - they'd have been much easier to manage in my backpack all day, too.

02 March 2012

Oh well

In town for the Motor Law conference yesterday, I took the rare opportunity to run a lap of Green Park and St James's Park: a very necessary exercise after a near-all-nighter in my hotel room inserting last-minute papers into 45 delegates' packs and composing a questionnaire for the delegates. I did miss running it with company, though: this route is to me primarily about running with friends, but that was then, this is now.

I concentrated on maintaining a rate of 180 paces a minute, to avoid overstriding and keep my footstrike in the right place directly below my centre of gravity, particularly as with a whole conference-worth of stuff to lug around with me I only had my Luna sandals and I was concerned to avoid straining Achilles, which is still taped up (see http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-241-286--13016-0,00.html, and I can tell you it helps: how much I don't know yet, but it's worth mentioning that the tape, which I bought from http://www.kinesiotapeshop.co.uk/, has been on for nearly a week and has survived several showers). The fast cadence certainly helped, and I ran the modest distance without a problem. Can I stretch than into a half-M on Sunday week? Of course I can - but it won't be fast, and it might involve cushioned shoes.

The conference was a memorable affair. I had worked out a few weeks ago that this was the 23rd annual conference that we have organised for Motor Law, the first without Anthea (at least in the background, as she was last year) and also the first for a long time without David. The first few years' conferences were actually organised by a commercial conference organiser before Anthea and I took the decision that we could do better ourselves: all but two have been at the RAC, and all but one have been chaired by David Evans. I suspect that there are some delegates who have been to nearly all of them, too, although I can't remember whether I got to all of them during the years from about 2000 when I sold my share to Anthea to 2010 when I took over the reins.

Nearly every year has opened with a session devoted to the block exemption, that strange piece of legislation as Hanns Glatz recently described it to me - and it has become stranger over the years, and through its four iterations. Most years we have had a speaker from the Commission, often the head of the unit: Klaus Stoever several times, Paolo Ceserini at least once, Maria Rehbinder last year. This year our speaker, Axel Bierer, was taken ill - it seems that there is a flu epidemic, or something, in Belgium - so at short notice we had the prospect of trying to run the event without the speaker many people would be coming to hear. Fortunately, the Commission organised a virtual replacement in the form of John Clark, who spoke at the conference a couple of years ago, and who could speak to us by videoconference. (A pity the Eurostar ticket was a write-off, though.)

How to get a videoconference stream from Brussels onto a screen and loudspeakers in the RAC Club - a venue with many wonderful attributes, which do not include cutting-edge AV facilities. Webex, an online Cisco system, seemed to offer the solution, so I took out a trial subscription on Wednesday morning, played with it a little while, then had to rush off to London as I had printing to collect, more printing to order, and a client to see. Dropping in to RIBA to collect a bag of conference necessities that I had deposited under my desk earlier in the week, I took a moment to consult the IT department about the chances of making the Commission's equipment communicate with my laptop. Steve, to whom I was able to show the technical specification which the Commission had provided, offered the view that even if everything else worked the wifi connection at the RAC would fall over if I tried it: so it would be audio only, or so I thought.

In due course I pitched up at the hotel where, expecting to be entertaining a speaker from Brussels, I had booked two rooms, one of them now cancelled, with six carrier bags full of conference packs and a box containing several late submissions (black marks for those speakers) which I would have to insert later. The hotel was several grades grander and more expensive than I would have chosen just for myself - but at least I had a large room around which to scatter the piles of paper I had to deal with. First, though, a convivial dinner at the RAC with the conference chairman and my co-director of Motor Law, which meant I started work on the delegates' packs at about midnight, refreshed with several glasses of wine. Unsurprisingly, the numbers of copies of additional papers to insert somehow failed to match the number of packs: meaning, I imagine, that some delegates received multiple copies of some papers. Oh, well.

The run was to clear my head, but it took up time when I might have been eating breakfast, which it turned out was not included in my room rate anyway - so I skipped that, checked out, lugged my bags of delegates' packs into a taxi, rode to the RAC, carted them upstairs and began setting up the Webex link. We struggled for a long time, during which I located obvious errors like my computer being set to mute and the speakers not being plugged in. We had John in the conference from Brussels and Mike in it on his mobile in the conference room, but nothing coming out of the speakers. Technical assistance, when the phone was answered (after about ten minutes) was unable to help. Too late we realised that the problem was almost certain to be that Mike had dialled in with credentials that should have been used by the computer - why should there be any need for the host to join his own conference? - but by then urgent action was needed. I closed down the conference, opened my Skype account, bought some credit (while delegates watched, fascinated, on the screen) and dialled John's number. There he was, loud and clear, though without video, which was excellent: except that his first words were to ask if we had the slides - necessitating a visit to my Gmail account, still (because I hadn't time to switch between displays, which always involves a few seconds' delay and anyway I didn't want to risk the whole edifice crashing down around me) on screen, downloading the slides and starting the show, which I controlled standing at the lectern until I thought to plug in the wireless controller which allowed me to take a seat in the audience ...

The rest of the conference, unsurprisingly, ran much more smoothly than that. Gene Brockman's Skype talk from the States, with video, proved a great success. Speakers present in person were also, without exception, excellent. A memorable day, but one I am pleased has now passed. Pity there was no time for a run in the evening. In fact, next year's programme might have stress-relieving run breaks instead of coffee and lunch. Now there's an idea.