Tuesday, March 31, 2009

What I think about when I run

I finished reading "What I talk about when I talk about running" by Haruki Murakami last night. It's an interesting book, one that muses on writing, running, the weather and a few other things besides. I enjoyed it a lot, although found it never quite decided if it was more focused on running or writing primarily so just as he got started on one track he moved on to another, leaving you wanting a little more of either - perhaps this though is what makes Murakami so popular.

It made me think (it happens) about what I think about when I run. To be honest most of the time I run with my running mate Sarah Palin, I mean Will, and we talk about many things. This week we even played the 'Alphabet Game' (where you take it in turns to list subjects, alphabetically) for footballers / countries / capital cities / things to do with running (example L = Lucozade, Z = zoom), to help us on the four mile hill climb we had to do - it did help.

When I do run on my own though I tend to think about very little. Mostly it's "better step off the pavement here to avoid that dog" or, "right now for a burst of speed...now ease up", but it's rare that you ever have profound, philosophical monologues that lead to a sudden realisation as people might imagine. Zen running is a term I've read but I presume it refers to this notion that you empty your mind of thought, not because you suddenly achieve great wisdom. If you do think about anything concrete and non-running related it's more likely to be, "Oh, I am looking forward to some mashed potato tonight".

However, when I did the Silverstone Half-Marathon, in which I tried my hardest to get to sub 1:45 and maybe even 1:39 (I did 1:42 dead), I spent almost their entire race multiplying eights. "If I run the next four miles in 8 minute miles, then the last mile in 9 minutes, I'll finish in 1:41, so if I run the next three miles in 8 minutes miles that makes 24 minutes, so then I need to..." and so on. Endlessly repeating this every mile or even 1/2 mile where I assumed those to be.

This links nicely back to Murakami. At the very start of the book he says much the same thing. Often he thinks about nothing. Sometimes though he thinks about certain mantras that he repeats to help him run. One he mentions later in the book is "Just think about the next three meters". The other he writes about, right at the start of the book is, "Pain is inevitable. Suffering is temporary." I like this one a lot. It's true. If you're going to run 26.2 miles you'd be foolish to expect to come through without some pain. The difference is - do you let the pain control you, or do you take that pain and treat it with contempt and push through and finish and hopefully finish strongly?

I did Ten Tors 45 miles when I was 17: it was very hard. You had to walk 22.5 miles a day, for two days, over Dartmoor (very tough terrain), camp wild overnight, and finish by 5pm on Sunday. The team I was in with schoolmates made it home with an hour to spare and as a complete team - something that is hard to do as often people drop out or get injuries. One of the reasons we did so was because, as we set off surrounded by 2,000 others, we saw a T-shirt with the slogan "Pain is temporary. Pride is Permanent" on the back and remembered it as motivation to keep us going, despite the incessant, bitter rain that fell on us as we stumbled across a bog, about four miles behind schedule, on the first day.

That mantra sums up so much of events like that and marathons. It's perhaps one of the reasons people often agree to run marathons again, only hours after crossing the finishing line and swearing "never again!", as, famously, Steve Redgrave did: "If you see me get in another boat, you have my permission to shoot me!"

So to conclude: What was I talking about? I don't even know - I guess that's what Murakami was saying. When you run your mind jumps about: sometimes snatches of relevant, book worthy thoughts come to you, or mantras repeat in your mind when you need to push through pain barriers, but mostly you look at clouds, watch out for dogs, or think, as I will tonight: "oh I can't wait for that mashed potato."

Why I haven't seen The Wire (yet)

Everyone agrees that The Wire is The best Show Ever Made™.

I haven't seen it. I haven't seen it despite knowing a keen Guardian promoter of The Wire for three years. Despite having access to illegal streaming of it online, despite it being on Virgin's amazing On Demand service. And now, as it starts on BBC2, I still won't be watching it.

The reason is simple really. Time. Finding the time to commit properly to a show that everyone, everyone, has said is the most layered, in-depth, detailed, realistic show ever made means the idea of watching a poor quality downloaded version on suspect stream websites is not for me. The On Demand service means I have to find an hour a day to have the front room to myself to watch it while the BBC's screening starts at 11.20 and finishes at 12.20 - far too late! Plus it runs every night of the week - what if you miss a night?

So really my reasons are not because I don't want to watch the show, but because I want to appreciate at it for the genius it must be, by watching it at leisure, and really taking in every aspect of the show. I've always watched shows like this. Arrested Development, Seinfeld, Lost, Band of Brothers and so forth. I want to do the same with The Wire (and Mad Men, and Battlestar Galactica but that's another issue again), but unless I can get the perfect conditions, I don't want to start.

Perhaps this is stupid though. One thing I've learnt from my marathon training (yes I've really learnt a "life lesson" from the training) is that there is no such thing as a 'perfect time'. Running has to be done whether it's raining, snowing, is windy or the sun is blazing. The perfect time is now. So maybe I should just bite the bullet and watch the first episode and go from there. Or maybe I'll wait until...

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Over the hill

So, yesterday, 19.7 miles. Nineteen point seven miles. Let's just let that sink in shall we?

I remember back in October when six miles was deemed a success. I remember in January when 11.6 miles was impressive. Now, such distances seem luxurious, a mere stroll in the park. Not only was it our longest run, it is also the last long run we will do before the big day. We now enter Taper Time. This is, to the uninitiated among you, the period when you decrease your training before the big day so your muscles recover some sufficient strength and you are nicely fresh for the big day.

I can see now why they tell you to do this. After just one hour yesterday my muscles felt tired and ached, not from the one hour of running, but from the accumulation of so many miles in the last three weeks, which, roughly, has been about 60/70 miles. Not only this but the running route we follow to build up these miles is forever up or downhill, especially up on the return. This means at 1:40, as you're reaching around half way, you're faced with four miles of continuous uphill. This is hard.

However, this week, unlike last, although on finishing my legs ached with an intensity I've never quite felt before, the state of tiredness and pain that such a distance created wasn't as disorientating or strange as last week, when I felt something akin to waking up at 5am after a heavy night of drinking that ended at 3am, and being in a state of semi-consciousness and semi-trance.

Still though, the fact this is the training zenith, and from here it's all an ease off before the big day, is a big psychological boost. Not only this fund-raising has passed £1,200 which really is a big motivation to push on through. On the big day let's hope the crowds, the preparation, the weather, the food intake and, most importantly, the legs, all converge to create perfect conditions for running my first ever marathon and I can smash the four hour mark and get as close to 3.30 as is possible.

But, ultimately, it's all about getting around, and if that means nine-minute miles for 24 miles before a mad dash (read: hobble) down Birdcage Walk and The Mall to sneak in at 4 hours, so be it.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

You can always rely on the kindness of strangers

When I first started my fundraising for the London Marathon I thought hard about who I could target for some sponsorship - friends, family, work people, and...well that's it. Ah, but of course, this is the 21st century - I had the entire internet out there to use.

Since those heady day of September 2008 when the Credit Crunch was a funny "and finally" story in the news, I have managed to raise £1,100 for the NSPCC. A charity which, in this six month period, has been proven to be, sadly, still vital in today's society.

Of this £1,100 a total of £55 has come due to online connections: A fiver from @jojo_wood via Twitter, £10 from @danieltwigg through Twitter/ work connections, £20 from the owner of blog site Five-Centers (a blog worth adding to your Netvibes or, if you insist on helping out small struggling companies, Google Reader) and, through some networking on Twitter, £20 by 'offering' to be interviewed for the JustGiving website.

As Marge and the cast sing in The Simpson's episode A Streetcar Named Marge...a stranger's just a friend you haven't metttttttttttttt.' Well you get the picture.

But it proves the internet, far from aiding and abetting the 'death of conversation' or cutting people off as the naysayers would claim, actually brings people together, gets them talking, engaging and helping one another, far more than ever before.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Marathon stories

So as you may have noticed from some previous posts, and the pictures on the right hand side, and the sponsorship widget too, I am in training to run the London Marathon. Today I was the featured runner on the JustGiving website's Your Stories section - click here to read it.

The Marathon Magazine was sent to all runners taking part recently, including their race day numbers (sadly my hope for a palindromic number like 41114 didn't materalise; the best number would be 11111, but I digress) featured an article on tapering off and why in the last week before the marathon you should do nothing. In capital letters, with an exclamation mark at the end, there was this brilliant typo on why this is so:


It happens

It doesn't matter how many subs you have, or how important the industry says they are or are not, sometimes mistakes are made. I should point out, this isn't one of our publications.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

An 18 mile run

So yesterday was the second longest run in the build up the London Marathon, 18 miles in three hours...well two hours 53 minutes to be exact. Another hot day meant an early start was required so we were out the house by 10.30 which made a nice change from lazing around until 2pm, mooching in the house, followed by a 'shall we go then?', 'I guess so.'

For about two hours there was little aching or pain, even after last weeks 13.1 mile blitz around Silverstone. Then we were met with the steepest hill on our run, badly positioned by the earth's construction over billions of years, which really tested our legs' endurance, and after conquering the hill and another mile we finally relented to their cries of , 'enough!', so we walked home for about 500m, to stretch the legs out.

It was quite uncomfortable at the end and was certainly the most I've 'felt' a run in my actual muscles, rather than 'in' the legs, which is what I had last weekend. Some pasta, lucozade and chocolate though soon had the energy levels topped up. Even to take in some bowling action (twinging the thighs nicely) in the evening.

We finally saw the Freud statue in Swiss Cottage area too.

Friday, March 20, 2009

A morning at This Morning

I entered the LDN Twestival raffle hoping to win return tickets to New York, but I didn't. However, I did win a tour of This Morning, to see the show being filmed as it went out live, and got to meet the stars Phillip Schofield and Fern Britton. We also got to visit the "Green Room" (I think it was blue though - amazing how you don't notice these things) and stand in the gallery where they direct the show, ordering the cameras around, counting down the intros and ad breaks, and shouting in the presenter's ears - all while eating toast and talking amongst themselves.

It was interesting to see the set in the flesh and the next time I am ill and strewn mournfully across the sofa watching daytime TV, I will at least now know what it's like in real life. Everthing is framed just so on the cameras to give the impression it's a warm, cosy, quiet living room, while all around are cameras and wires, people carrying clipboards and endless rolls of gaffer tape, all moving here and there at a frantic pace, keeping the show skipping along so in front of the camera everything is calm, clear, and soothing.

At the end of the show there was even a chance to meet Phil and Fern(!) and have a picture taken with them - and this meant we actually got to sit on the sofa, so well-known to millions of people. Amazing.

Other points of interest: Phil has a Cornish flag on his door - legend. We were given a mug with This Morning on it, a signed photo, and a business card holder (?) all of which was very nice, but cutbacks mean these are probably going to become collectors items in the coming years, I'll be stashing them away to let them accrue value. I also saw @schofe log into his Twitter account, not something that many of his 110,000 plus followers can claim to have done.

So although it wasn't quite New York, it was at least, a very interesing, different and unique London experience.

That's all from us, we'll see you on Monday, have a lovely weekend...Dar, dar dar dar da, dar dar dar da, dar dar dar da dat da dar.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Silverstone half-marathon

To Silverstone race course on Sunday for a half-marathon around the straights and hairpin bends of the track, reaching speeds of 220mph on the long straights.

It was an odd race, very hot in places, windy in others, on a very disconcerting track that wound its way here, there and everywhere. Often you could see runners both in front of you and behind you on different sections of the course, which was odd when trying to gauge where you were in the race.

I managed to run sub eight minute miles for 10 miles before my legs gave out on me and so I merely jogged to the end, probably around 8.30 - 9.30 miles, which brought me on 1hr 42 minutes dead. I was on for 1.39 at about mile 10 but didn't feel it was worth the risk to push myself overly hard and am pleased to have taken off seven minutes and 19 seconds from my Watford half-marathon time.

My target time of 3hr 30m for the London Marathon seems maybe a touch ambitious now, as running eight minute miles for 26.2 miles seems a tad too much given how my legs felt at 13.1 miles yesterday. Perhaps I should just settle for sub four hours. However, quite a few people commentated that the crowds will keep you going a lot longer in London. The crowds at Silverstone were good, but not
amazing, a bit quiet in places.

Under six weeks to go now too which means two more long runs, one of 16 miles, one of 18-20, and then tapering down to 15, 10 and maybe one eight, before a two week kick back just waiting for race day. Bring it on.

Me and Mr Will Dean celebrate the successful completion of Mr Half Marathon.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

As predicted

When Sarah Palin's daughter was found to be pregnant there was some nasty-taste-in-the-mouth, hypocricy, in some of the statements that were susbsequently realised, as I mentioned at the time. And of course now, under six months later, the 'loving and caring family environment' that Sarah Palin promised the child would be brought up in, is no now more, as her daughter and her boyfriend have split up.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Utterly shameless, completely Worthwhile

You knew this day was coming - the signs have been there for a while now, the way little images have gone up on the side of the page, then the widgit showing my progress, the occassional post asking quietly at the bottom, but now the stealth is over. Yes, like one of those infuriating ad campaigns that spend weeks causing you to ask, 'what the hell is this about?', I can now confirm this is the begging blog post, asking for donantions to my marathon fundraising page.

I've seen you visiting this page - through my statcounter - coming from your netvibe accounts, googling my name, wondering what random thoughts have fluttered through my brain and onto this page - and now I'm calling a favour. I want you(!) for Marathon Donations.

It's easy - you go here, you fill in some forms, you pick a random amount to sponsor me, and you feel warm and fuzzy inside, while on the big day itself, know you've done your bit, as I pound the streets of London. We all win.

This weekend I'm off to Silverstone (nnnnnnnneeeeeeeeoung....(( the sound of F1 car going past really fast, obviously)) - so any donations received before then will give me that extra push to get me around sub 1.45!

There's plenty more information on the JustGiving page about my training, why you should sponsor me, and so forth - but if you are a regular reader of this blog, or a random who has a couple of quid burning a hole in their (online) pocket, please, spend two minutes clicking and typing to donate to my page.

Above, finishing a 10K in Cornwall in 47m 14 seconds, in 42 from 217.

Friday, March 06, 2009


In honour of St Piran's Day that was yesterday, I popped along to the Cornish pub in Covent Garden with a few London based Cornish-grown friends for a pint or two. The pub was heaving with Cornish folk, all wearing Cornish tops, carrying flags, eating pasties, drinking Skinner's beer, and even belting out a rendition of Trelawney, after some lyric sheets were handed out.

It was great to see the community alive and well so far from home (well 400 or so miles) and underlined the camaraderie of the Cornish folk, wherever in the world they may be.