Category Archives: Apologies

Day 1 – Welsh Feet…. Welsh Roads?

  • Distance: 6km
  • Total Distance: 6km

So, Day 1 of Janathon. Quite a lot has changed since the last one. I’m no longer in France, no longer with my original partner (and midway through a bitter split) and no longer capable of running 500km in a month. I now live in the sleepy seaside town of Aberystwyth in West Wales. Aberystwyth is famous for many things – its cliff railway, its camera obscura and (most importantly) the fact it has only a single escalator (which runs upwards). Aberystwyth is divided from civilization by a couple of A-roads that wind their way through mountain ranges so treacherous that even Hannibal would think twice about crossing with his elephants (I’m not talking about the A-Team’s Hannibal – as due to the complete lack of airports in the region it would be easy to get BA Barracus to visit without resorting to drugged milk). What am I doing in this remote corner of the world? Well, with a view to getting back on the job market I’m wrestling with a Master’s degree in Food and Water Security at the 116th best university in the UK. I am a Master of many things, but this is my opportunity to get a piece of paper that proves it. So far it’s going quite well, although generally speaking the summary of the degree appears to be the world is finished, there is no hope and we’re all going to die.

Still, chin up eh?

Running wise for the first 3 or 4 days I’m going to be plodding around France as I’m staying with a friend here at the moment. I started off today with a gentle lollop through the Sarthe countryside in sub-zero conditions. 6km in all, at an ambling pace, but I felt fine and it was nice to get out and about after months of stooging about writing essays or running on a treadmill. After last year’s incredible (worth pointing it out for the third time) distance I think I’ll be a little more reasonable this time out and just aim for a comfortable top 10 finish. I’d like to do a couple of half-marathons in the spring and summer so this is a good way of kicking off the training as well as reducing the additional runthomasrun that I’m building up around my waistline….

Good luck to all the other participants. Apart from Andrew Fletcher, my nemesis. I don’t think he’s doing it this year, but he will remain my nemesis until I select a new one.

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300km! The fight for second starts here.

So, that’s 300km up for the month (in fact I’m now at 316km). The target is somewhere between 450 and 500km. If I could do the latter I’d be pleased, but it will mean some serious kilometerage over the next 10 days – well, 18.4km a day anyway, which actually isn’t too bad.

My mortal running enemy Mr Fletcher is currently on 326km, but hasn’t uploaded for today (which I think was about 12km). So, probably around 22km separate us. It’s all very exciting. To be honest it appears that while the snow and freezing conditions have inspired me, they seem to have weighed heavy on Mr Fs shoulders – so I’m hoping the terrible weather keeps on coming in the UK. I have a Lance Armstrong “win at any cost” approach to this, as you can see.

So, why has my blogging been so tardy this Janathon? In all seriousness it’s because I tend to run twice a day. The last run is often late at night, and it’s usually absolutely bloody freezing. When I get back in my hands physically can’t type until they thaw out, and usually by then I’m slumped on the sofa under a blanket watching Family Guy. So, apologies. But I haven’t been slacking on the miles, as you can see.

Anyway, I could barely type that out, so I’m going to stop. Best wishes, and if you happen to see Andrew out and about remember to trip him up!

(Only joking).

 

Janathon… Day… er 9, 8… 7?

I bet you were worried.

My sudden, terrifying disappearance.

Two whole days missed. No kilometres logged on RunningFree. My second place in the leaderboard becoming third. Then fourth. Then fifth. I could hear the hushed whispers…. Has it all got too much for him? Has his body crumbled under the strain? Has he been hit by a small white Peugeot van and smeared messily across the French tarmac? Has he been spirited to the fourth dimension by a 16 foot talking beetroot wearing a fake moustache?

No. None of these things.

There have been a few technical issues, now resolved. When I say “technical issues” I mean an issue of me not using technology to provide updates because of my general laziness.

However, my distances have now been logged, and I stand proud on 137km so far this month (on foot) and 49km (on the bike). This puts me comfortably back in second. Hopelessly adrift of fletchea, granted, but not out of the running (ho!) completely. To be fair, I don’t see fletchea doing any pedalling, so I think I should get to add my bike distance and running distance together. Sounds fair no?

It was an interesting run today. Well, I ran 12km this morning and then another 9km tonight, but the latter was the more interesting of the two. I changed my night running strategy today. I figured that running late at night isn’t without risks. I live in the middle of nowhere. It’s quite feasible that if I set off for a long run at 11pm on a day with the temperature below freezing, and fell into a ditch and broke my ankle I could perish of hypothermia before I encountered another human being. I should point out that I wear the same thing if it’s 30 above or 10 below. Shorts, T-shirt, socks, shoes. It’s warm enough if you’re running, but the moment you stop? Ooooh boy. I suppose I could wear full length lycra leggings and one of those puffy running jackets but I’m far too stylish for that. Even if it means certain death if I stop running.

Anyway, while running through scenarios in my mind of me being chipped out of an ice block in 500,000 years time by a future civilization and pondered over (“what was the sparkling bracelet upon his foot? Was it perhaps a mating ritual?“) I decided to experiment with running 5km circuits close-in to my house, figuring that even if I broke my ankle I could probably crawl home before becoming entombed as a human mammoth.

Amazingly I encountered some runners! Real ones. I occasionally see a few people shuffling round in shell-suits puffing and wheezing like an old steam tractor, but my strategy to go round and round the local village finally put me in sync with two local people who seemed to know how to run properly. Being France what could have been a lovely moment where two groups of people could meet and share a singular love of a sport was instead a bizarre social encounter which left me puzzled for a while afterwards.

First of all one of the runners (both male) was wearing a luminous sports bra. Let us call him Pierre and his friend Jean-Paul (I have no idea what they were called, but it seems reasonable). Neither Pierre or Jean-Paul had torches or generally fluorescent running gear. Considering it was pitch-black this seemed peculiar. The only means of alerting passing cars to their presence was the luminous sports bra. Admittedly he was wearing it over a T-shirt, but even so… It’s not really pertinent to the story, but I thought I’d mention it.

After we had exchanged pleasantries, I enquired how far they were intending to run. 15km, came the entirely reasonable reply. Did they run all the time? I asked excitedly (having never seen anyone in about 2 years of running in the area who looked like they took the sport at all seriously). Oh yes! came the reply. Every Tuesday and Thursday, and sometimes Wednesday at 6pm. Now, I can’t be sure this is a lie, but considering I’ve run through the village at about 6pm about 200 times and NEVER SEEN ANYONE EVER I thought this was a bit odd.

We chatted a bit, but whether I was invited to join them in the future or not, I don’t know….

This is what puzzles me. I taught a French class the other day (well, I taught a class of French people about English) and we talked a lot about the differences in culture between France and the UK in terms of social interaction. For example. In France the phrase “Oh yes! I’d be delighted if you wanted to come and stay at my house! Stay as long as you like!” actually, genuinely means “come and stay at my house as long as you like!

In the UK the phrase “Oh yes! I’d be delighted if you wanted to come and stay at my house! Stay as long as you like!” means “stay in my house for 2 or 3 days tops, after two weeks the sight of you will make me want to vomit and if you stay any longer I will personally stab you to death when you sleep with a rusty screwdriver“.

The French don’t understand this. Their social interactions are very blunt, rather than a tapestry of little white lies. But they also sometimes say very little and expect you to decipher meaning from tiny gobbets of information. It could be that by proffering information on the exact timing and location of their mini-running club that they would be delighted for me to tag along in future. They might even expect it. I don’t know. It’s all very confusing.

But anyway, apart from the luminous sports-bra I was shocked at their relative lack of lighting or visibility equipment. When I enquired as to why this was Pierre said he knew the road like the back of his hand. Which is fine I guess. But when it’s pitch black you actually need to find the road you know like the back of your hand before you can demonstrate your hand-related knowledge of said road. He seemed adamant that head torches were bourgeois accoutrements and entirely unnecessary . I didn’t argue. One thing you learn early on in life is never argue with a Frenchman wearing a luminous sports bra.

A maxim for life. You might want to write that down.

We ran together for 5 or 6km before we parted. The set off up the main road, disappearing into the rain, cloud and light fog with only a thin strip of luminous bra-strap keeping them alive. It was a peculiar meeting and one that lingered long after it had finished.

The question remains – do I run tomorrow at 6pm, try to meet up with them and try to learn more about these mysterious, phantom runners, guided purely by glowing lingerie. Or should I continue to run alone?

I think we both know the answer to that.

Janathon – Jour Six

Just a quick update. I can’t provide fun, frivolity and wisdom every day. Tonight I’ll concentrate on brevity.

Did another 13km last night (so, 24km yesterday) and 11km this morning. Was going to go out again, but I think I’ll take a breather and do a longer run tomorrow morning. Sadly, halfway through last night’s run the headtorch pretty much ran out of batteries. The last stretch, which was on trails, was very dangerous and true to form about 0.2km from the house I turned my ankle in a pothole I could barely see. It’s pretty sore today, and was jimmering a bit after 6 or 7km on the run, so probably best to give it a wee rest. I’ve also spent two hours in field harvesting corn and went swimming with the kids, so I think I’ve had my fill of aerobic exercise.

I’m now up to 100km after 6 days though! Yay, go me!

A quicke 2

16km!

2 days to go. If I can run 32km over the two days I’ll have done 350km for the month.

I still don’t have any words.

Sorry, more tomorrow.

A quickie

20k today. Finished at 1am. Tired.

No more words.

Penitence and dodos

Well, a bit of an embarrasing day for team runthomasrun today.

I was out building a gate when my wifepartnerfriend came out to bring me a cup of coffee. She said she’d been reading the blog but she’d felt awkward laughing “because of the picture”. Because of the picture I thought? Odd? “What’s wrong with the picture?” I asked, and she told me that she thought it was in poor taste to use a picture of a handicapped man. WHAT? I thought back to last night, and the quick skip through Goole Image Search trying to find “a person with tray of cakes”. I’d been so excited to actually find one, I just uploaded it without really thinking. I just thought it was a guy with some strange looking cakes. As the cold icy chill of realisation began to hit, I realised I needed to get inside ASAP and do something about it. I sprinted to the computer and swapped it, but felt rather guilty all day.

So sorry if you were mortally offended by my man with a tray of cakes. I still contend that just in passing it just looked like a guy with some cakes, but I should probably pay more attention.

It reminded me of my other, major, published faux pas. This story is a bit rambling, but bear with it.

I’ve never been one for clubs and societies. I remember my mum and dad trying to convince me for months that I should go to Cubs. Personally, I felt there was plenty of time in my life when I could dress up in a uniform and be told what to do by a potential child molester, so I wasn’t particularly keen. In the end we reached a compromise and I agreed to go to Swimming Club – which was great as most of the time I was in the water and don’t have to interact with anyone else. (Can you tell I’m an only child? I keep it so well hidden!) Apart from a bit of swimming and being forced at gunpoint to play in a local brass band I pretty much avoided clubs through school. I figured I’d carry this through further education too.

Anyway, when I arrived at university there was the ubiquitous Fresher’s Fair where all the different organisations in the university pimped their clubs and societies. I wandered round for a while and couldn’t face any of them. Well, all but one. I joined, on a whim, the club that wrote the student newspaper. I was a science student reading (it’s so poncey to say “reading” I love it) Biology – a degree I chose because it contained hardly any maths, but wasn’t an arts degree – and as the only non History of Art/English/Journalism student in the club I was handed fairly strange assignments. I have only vague memories of my first few articles, but I think did a few album reviews and tried my hand at a popular science column. So while Prof. Brian Cox was arsing about in D:REAM I was already making a difference to the public perception of science.

The newspaper had a wide distribution, I’m guessing thousands of copies. It was free, so hardly a job writing for Vogue, but there was a certain prestige attached to appearing in it. Now, when I was at university the Internet was in its infancy and when writing anything you couldn’t just hop on to Wikipedia to double check facts and figures. It was late, and I was writing an article on something or other. For some reason I saw fit to write the sentence “… the dodo may have been fat, hopeless and stupid, but at least it could fly!” That’s right. My brain told me dodos could fly. Possibly the world’s second most famous flightless bird (behind the ostrich).

A bird famous for becoming extinct mainly because it couldn’t fly.

So, very pleased with myself I sent my smug, oh-so-clever article to the editor for review. Either she didn’t proof read it, or she hated me. The dodo line was still there, and to top it all A LARGE PICTURE OF A DODO had been added to the article. A gigantic picture of a dodo, sitting on a rock, looking like flying was the furthest thing from its mind.

The article went to print.

My first inkling that something was wrong was when people all started squawking and flapping their arms at me when I entered my university halls common room the day the latest issue of the newspaper came out. Over the course of a week the newspaper received 50 or 60 e-mails and letters pointing out the error, and the following issue dedicated a large part of the letters page to my humiliation. It was even mentioned on the student radio station, not just once, but forming the backbone of a running joke that lasted about a week. The fact I was a biology student didn’t help. Poor flightless bird identification might be expected of a mathematician or a physicist, but a biologist?

I was so humiliated by the article I never wrote for the student newspaper again. I couldn’t face going back to the club. I just packed it in, nursed my wounds and prayed that I’d never again cock-up a written article due to incompetence and poor proof-reading.

17 years later, here we are.

I never learn….

Anyway, only managed 5km today, but it was a perky one. Tried ramping up the speed near the end, and it felt pretty good. There’ll be some strong challenges over the weekend, so I’m going to try to put in a pair of 16k’s back to back just to be sure I don’t get gazumped at the final hurdle….