31 March 2013

A Hazy Shade of Winter

The coldest Easter on record, and the coldest march since 1962 - but today the weather was more like spring than it has been since early January. 5K round the playing fields, stopping to thrown the ball for Hugo, is not great but it's certainly better than nothing, and nothing is what has been happening with my running of late. The other day, I ventured out on the same route (with the same running mate, and the same ball to throw for him), wearing a sweatshirt against the cold, which I assumed was not going to be Muscovite in its intensity because the sun was shining - a little. And while I was running with the wind at my back, I was right. Turning along the southern edge of my lap, though, the wind hit  me and it was immediately apparent that gloves and hat were essential. Since they were at home, that was where I went, though for a cappuccino rather than to pick them up.

I deliberately raised the pace along that southern edge of the lap today, and for the last lap kept it raised for another fifty or so yards: and I find I was up to (or down to?) 5:31 pace, at least for an instant. OK, that might be a Garmin hiccup, but it's not entirely implausible, and it gives me something to work on. Timekeeping at the Abingdon Parkrun yesterday, I envied not only the first man home in 17-something but all the other runners who came in at times quicker than I could contemplate. That elusive sub-20 5K has surely eluded me for ever now, but it would be very nice to get down to the low end of the 20s again. Rather better weather will certainly help my training.

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26 March 2013

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner

Does your running sometimes amaze you? Do you sometimes manage to keep up a workrate that you didn't believe possible? Do you ever finish a run and ask yourself where on earth it came from?

If your experience is anything like mine, you'll have had this feeling - perhaps once or twice, perhaps a few times, definitely not very often. It's too special to happen every day. I have particularly had this on club runs, when I have fallen in with someone rather faster than me - and kept up with them. Often left them at the end. It's the very antithesis of social running, but sometimes it's what I feel I need.

Talking to Kerry the other day, over a lunch that I've been looking forward to ever since he phoned me to ask if I would be interested in writing for RW, I was surprised to find that his take on running with people, on socialising on the hoof, was quite different from mine. It never struck me that some people might be so much in the zone that they wouldn't want to be interrupted. Well, it's probably something elite athletes do, but they inhabit a different - not distant, but definitely different - planet, and for me the social side of running has always been essential. Well, nearly always.

Actually, even tonight it was important. I suggested to Kerry that even if one did not speak, the act of running with someone, matching strides, breathing in parallel (or perhaps out of synch), was a form of communing. He didn't seem to agree - but this evening, on the long drag along Audlet Drive/Twelve Acre Drive/Dunmore Road, the last couple of miles of a run far longer than I thought I could comfortably manage, there was something reassuring about the sound of feet behind me. I wasn't talking to the teammate to whom the feet belonged: I had no breath for that. But just to know from the sound of her feet that she was there, that was enough. We hadn't met each other before - she told me after the run that she had only joined the club about five months earlier, and I haven't been out with them much in that time - but we pushed each other to performances far beyond what we thought we could manage: and the feeling that gives you is priceless. I have a sense that I can achieve something big now: but the most important thing is to keep up the running, stay in this zone, hang onto these positive vibrations.

08 March 2013

Song for insane times

Yesterday's running felt good: light and easy, although I have to admit that it wasn't fast. Today I ran about a mile to the station after dropping off the car to have a new exhaust fitted, and it also felt good, although it was a supremely uninspiring route. Then, after a day's work in London, I ran back from the City to Paddington - a run I haven't done for a long time. And, after a reluctant start, I found it remarkably easy too. 9:42 pace isn't exactly pushing it, but to get from the office to Paddington in 52½ minutes is respectable, in my world at least. Running in London is rarely very fast, although after the Micky Mouse section through the City the run along the Embankment, then through Horseguards, St James's Park, Green Park and Hyde Park (except for Hyde Park Corner) is pretty good uninterrupted running.

Along the Embankment, on a wet March evening, I was passed by a beautiful Ferrari Dino - an exquisite moment, but if I were a Dino owner I don't think I'd be exposing it to that sort of risk. But then, what would be the point of owning it?

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07 March 2013

I'm Going Home

Another few miles - 4.42 recorded ones today, though there should be a bit more because my Garmin operation wasn't too good. A short run to the office, pausing to phone a client (and shelter from the rain as I did so) and to deposit a cheque at the bank in Baker Street. Coming home, the long route, extended involuntarily: the gate on the towpath just after the tube bridge, a short distance outside Regent's Park, was open, so I carried on into that section of the canal where many boats are moored semi-permanently, with the thought that I might find the exit closed and have to retrace my steps - which would have been about half a mile to repeat. As it happened, I met the man who locks the gates - the turnkey, I guess - who'd secured the far, westerly, one and was heading for the eastern gate through which I had just passed. He told me I would have to turn round - had he been close to the recently-locked gate I might have pleaded with him. I put it to him (if I may be permitted a lawyerly turn of phrase) that he was out to boost my mileage: he concurred, and laid claim to a Mars Bar by way of reward. Did I look like a man with a spare Mars Bar?

I was never a TYA fan, but the news that Alvin Lee has passed away at the age of 68 gives further pause for thought. Musicians from my youth are dropping like flies.

06 March 2013

I had too much to dream last night

Ten laps of the playing fields this morning, 3.21 miles, making 17 miles in the past seven days - hardly worth mentioning, except that it is Progress (definitely with a capital P). And I wore my Vivobarefoot trail shes (the black ones being carefully filed away at RIBA).

For the second night, I had particularly vivid dreams - last night's I have forgotten the details of, but the night before it was one of those occasions when I had a Marathon to run and didn't seem to be able to get to the start. I was in Westminster, in an hotel, or perhaps it was the RAC: the Marathon started in the City. I had allowed myself to be sidetracked until there was only fifteen minutes for me to get to the start. I am sure this is all highly significant - does anyone else have similar dreams, I wonder?

05 March 2013

Ce Soir On Danse

A gentle 3.6 miles, the shortest of the routes on offer at Amblers this evening. Many comments about my (comfortable, cushioned) footwear.

04 March 2013

Salad Days (are here again)

I hope.

Two short runs, bookending a working day: the most direct route in each case, because of time constraints. The morning train was in reverse formation so it was straight out onto Praed Street: back in the evening I took to the waterside after Edgware Road, and there was some flow going on - with my running, I mean, not with the basin. No GPS because of a lack of juice in the Garmin, which is a shame because some of it was a decent pace, by which in my present condition (that is, at my age - and weight) means sub-eight minutes.

No problems with feet, but then, I have only run about three and a half miles today, split between two sessions.

On the way in, passed several large vans with satellite dishes, illegally parked though the cops (of whom several were in attendance) didn't seem bothered, and a throng of snappers outside King Eddy's. Pity ER: she needs a spot of rest.

03 March 2013

May I?

This isn't my first blog posting since his death, but searching for an appropriate song by Kevin I find that I never used this one, which is not only probably my favourite (I like Puis-je? just as much) but also one of his best - and with such a superb band, too, of whom Lol Coxhil and David Bedford (who, I just realised as I watched the video again, looks remarkably like Lech Wałęsa) went before him. It has been part of the soundtrack of my life (what a hackneyed phrase) since, in my first year at Warwick, I bought a copy of Shooting at the Moon from a record shop in Kenilworth. Someone had ordered it but had never come in to collect it, a tragic, inexplicable and unforgiveable omission for them. Naturally, I always hoped an opportunity would arise to use the line from the song myself, but of course it never did.

It's a completely arbitrary choice of music, too, a gratuitous homage to the great songsmith, because it bears no relation to what I have to tell you, which is merely that Hugo and I did the seven mile loop from home, up to the Ridgeway, under the A34, across the Bury Down car park, and down to the village again past Upper Farm and the school. Nothing exceptional there, except that it's a long time since I did it or anything remotely similar in length. And, thanks to Countryfile on the BBC just now, I remember to say that I was skumfish after that. There's a campaign to preserve the Northumbrian language and "skumfish" is one of the words being thrown around: my father used to use it a lot, though my recollection is that it had "-ed" at the end. Either way, it eloquently conveys my state at the end of a seven-miler, then feeding the ponies and sitting down to read a few pages of a book. "Knackered" is a bit obvious, isn't it?