03 October 2015


Last weekend was one of those times which one remembers for ever. Beautiful sunny and extremely warm weather in Moscow - to think, I was planning to take an overcoat, and even a suit jacket proved to be too much. Time spent catching up with good friends, and getting to know a new group of students. A brief meeting with Victor, who gave me a copy of Реки и Мости, Машина Времени's greatest album (two vinyl discs). The discovery that they are playing in London in December. Asking directions of a stranger in the street, and impressing people by saying поехали. A delightful evening out with a former student, finishing by standing outside Куэнецкий Мост Metro station discussing Машина Времени. And the weekly timed 5K run, the name of which I won't write because of their inane directive (указ) which insists that it be spelt with a lowercase initial letter.
My plans to run my 50th such event that weekend, in Gorky Park, after a summer of intensive training (with the goal of setting an all-time personal best, which would have to be sub-20 minutes) foundered: too much to do, too little time for training. Life, as they say, got in the way. For "life" read "work", or at least the exigency of earning money, which resulted in my taking on a major piece of work for the University of Law and presenting a programme for LNTV, both of which took more time than originally anticipated. As for the books I should have written or at least updated, they are also waiting, like the intensive training.
In fact, as the PB plan was in tatters, I ran number 50 the week before the Moscow trip, to show myself that I could do it. When last I ran Gorky Park I was exploring my fitness to run a half Marathon the following weekend: I didn't want to injure myself, and I went very slowly. So I knew I would improve this time, and indeed I took several minutes off the previous time. I knew how to get from the Metro station to the start, and I knew where to turn round on the out-and-back course (and this time I could still see the runner in front, which was not the case last year!). I even bettered my time from the previous week's outing in Didcot by six seconds, and that had been only 2 seconds off a season's best. Taking into account that there are two climbs on the Gorky Park route - the same one in two directions, just enough to make it not pancake-flat like Didcot - and the heat of a Russian September, and a poor night's sleep, that seemed pretty good.
Today, Didcot was cool (I think it is fair to say that the Miles Davis sense of the word never applies to Didcot: I refer to the temperature). I joked with a marshal that at least I would be getting warmer. Jean-Luc told me he hoped to beat me, which I told him was highly likely. His biggest concern seems to be that his son will soon be faster than he is. My biggest concern was to count the laps of the field before setting off for the last mile on the paths: Jean-Luc suggested that, in order to achieve his goal, he would not alert me if I went wrong (as he did once before). Is it really so hard to count to three? Perhaps it is a symptom of my advancing age.
From the start, I found myself in close proximity to one of those irritating runners who not only sticks their elbows out but also keeps wanting to occupy the same piece of track as me. That could, of course, be put the other way round - I could be trying to take his track - but his frequent and unheralded changes of direction, without a look over his shoulder or even sideways, suggest that the first formulation is correct. After the first lap of the field he pulled ahead and didn't trouble me again.
Having run through that phase during which my legs try to tell me that this is not the right time for such exercise, I settled into a reasonable rhythm - maintaining my three steps breathing in, two out, regime most of the time (it breaks down when I am really pushing myself, or when I forget to count). That certainly seems to get significantly more oxygen into my system, as well as balancing the load.
Just before the final turn I was aware of another runner doing their best to pass me. I stayed ahead until we reached the final stretch, then she breezed past and although I mustered a reasonably fast finish it wasn't enough to take back the place. Glancing at my watch, I thought I might be on for a faster time than the week before: when I stopped it, showing an improvement of 50 seconds, I could hardly believe it. An improvement of 15 seconds per mile, and my age-graded percentage up to nearly the level my PB in this series of events, 22.22 about three years ago, achieved (68.09 per cent: I reckon I need to be nearly at 80 per cent to achieve my sub-20 time, but it's not impossible, as my IP lawyer/runner friend Rachel Buker encouragingly told me during the week).
The world seems a different, brighter place today compared with a couple of weeks ago. There's a tangible sense of things happening, not just marking time until another client pays a bill.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Awesome job, congratulations!