Category Archives: Boring

Day 26 – Dot Dot Dash Dash Dot Dot

Total Distance – 157km

I have limped, figuratively and literally up to 157km. Over the space of 5 days I’ve managed 2 very painful shortish runs and one bafflingly pain free longer one. There seems to be no rhyme or reason to when my knee flares up – though I think it’s closely related to whether I tackle hills or not. With 5 days to go I’d like to sneak close to a respectable 200km for the month, but it’s a lottery each day as to whether I can limp 40ft or breeze along for 10kkm. We shall see….

 

Day 8 – Statistics

  • Distance – 10km
  • Total Distance – 60km

Another 10km today. It’s getting a little easier, so next week it’s time to start concentrating on bringing the times down to reasonable levels, as well as boosting the distance a little….

I spent the afternoon up at the university wrestling with my Biostatistics module. I’ve always been terrible at maths. My GCSE “B” was hard won with hours of additional tuition and a shed-load of luck. Algebra is a big no no, but anything with numbers in brings me out in a cold sweat. This is originally why I did a Biology degree, as it’s the only science you can do where maths isn’t vitally important. Well, that’s what I thought. Of course, I realised fairly quickly that Biology actually involves a lot of statistics – so there were many tearful late nights sat with my friends on maths and computing courses begging them to help me with my coursework.

That said, I probably hate statistics the least of all mathematical disciplines. Unlike abstract maths there is at least a point to it. There was a lingering doubt that perhaps at nearly 40 I’d overcome my mathlexia and could learn to love the art of number crunching – but my terrible performance in a couple of pretest-tests this afternoon showed it was still in full force. Here’s a statistic – I managed to get 76% on one test on the second attempt WHEN I HAD ALL THE ANSWERS. Stunning. Next week I have to do six tests in total. It doesn’t take a statistical genius to work out that P < 0.05 I’ll do well.

That was a statistics joke. If you didn’t like it try not to be mean (and ANOVER).

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Day 6 – Exploration

  • Distance – 6km
  • Total distance – 40km

Set off with the intention of running a decent distance, but ended up running about 3km in one direction (along the beach) then running 3km back in the other direction (quite close to the beach). Once I got back to the start I didn’t have the heart to do any more, so I sacked it in. My terrible distances have seen me cut hopelessly adrift from the Janathon top ten, languishing down in 13th place. But, I did find a nice new route which can be glued onto my existing one to make it a little longer.

The weather has been suspiciously good the past couple of days, I’m expecting an ice-storm tomorrow or meteor strike.

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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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Janathon – Day Deux

So, day 2.

I’m bored already to be honest. No, only joking.

The run today (14.3km) was fairly engaging. I high-fived a passing cyclist and a random green metallic Ford Focus beeped at me. If that’s not high octane excitement then I don’t know what is. Not quite sure about this mysterious green car. I’ve seen it about for months, and every time it goes past it always beeps furiously. I don’t know anyone with a green Ford Focus, so perhaps they’re just beeping out of a sense of solidarity. Perhaps they like my shapely buttocks. Who knows? The strange thing is that every time they go past I can never catch sight of the driver. By the time they beep, they’re already gone. Which is a Bob Dylan lyric I think. Or perhaps not. Anyway. It’s some sort of phantom car I reckon. Driven by Death. Or someone with a green Ford Focus who has kept it from me for reasons of embarrassment. I might be hallucinating it, but to be frank if the best hallucination I can come up with is a boring family hatchback with an invisible driver then I’ll probably need to knuckle down and actually start taking some proper drugs.

High-fiving the cyclist was fun though. A real sense of camaraderie and togetherness with a fellow athlete that is all too rare on French roads. Normally even dragging a smile from a passing garcon du sport is more difficult than getting blood from a turnip. In this wanton, dangerous, split-second – where my lycra-clad cycling brethren decided to throw Gallic caution to the wind and touch my palm as he passed – I experienced a sense of sporting closeness I have rarely experienced while out and about. I think he recognised in me another TRUE ATHLETE. Not the shuffling adverts for the local sportswear shop already feeling the pinch just 48 hours into their New Year’s resolution, oh no. But a hardcore distance runner, forged as he was on the unforgiving tarmac we both made it our daily duty to conquer. Either that or he was drunk. Which to be frank is probably the most likely explanation.

I wrapped up the day with a 16km cycle to go and get the milk. I got a free cheese today because of a broken cream promise.

I’ll leave that last statement deliberately ambiguous to try and inject a little bit of excitement into this blog.

It’s not working is it?

Sigh

Nothing to report today. Dragged myself at a half run/half walking pace for just over 5km. Knee hurts, bum hurts, head hurts.

Deep breath. Will refocus for tomorrow.

Ultraman!

Why am I running? It’s a question I asked myself today as I plodded for 10km.

(Apologies for the maudlin tone and boring content of today’s blog. Back to fun and japes tomorrow, I promise).

Last year I had a clear goal – to run a marathon. I quite enjoyed it, but it wasn’t something I could really see myself becoming addicted to. I prefer distances between 10k and 21k, and this year I’d set myself a nebulous target of “getting faster” rather than “going further”.

What this means practically is probably running a 10k in under 40 minutes (current PB 43 minutes 47 seconds) and a half marathon in 90 minutes (current PB 107 minutes 13 seconds). Both are within my grasp, assuming I can return to my marathon fitness (and Janathon is doing a good job of that). I also pondered joining a running club, for a bit of motivation, camaraderie and an opportunity to speak French about more general things than cropping and animal husbandry.

So, there are some goals, but there isn’t a GOAL.

Over at rosshendry.com my evil rival for Janathon (for 4 or 5 days until he gave up/got distracted buying socks) revealed this week he was planning an 80km ultra marathon in August. I have to admit I had a slight twinge of jealousy. I’ve always been attracted to wild feats of endurance and you can’t argue that the marathon has lost its lustre somewhat since an unfit Eddie Izzard did 150 of them back to back while eating only ice-cream.

The ultra is the new marathon.

My problem with truly long-distance running is the fact you can’t really fudge the training. Even marathon distance you can muddle through as long as you’re fit – ultimately it’s only going to be 3 or 4 hours of hell, which as long as you’re a reasonable runner is bearable for most people. But beyond that you’re into the realms of serious endurance. I have a lot of admiration for people who can run 50km+, not only as a one off, but day after day after day. While I found the marathon itself fairly “easy” (relatively speaking) the recovery afterwards was painful, and protracted. Admittedly I had pushed fairly hard for the first 30k, but I was amazed at how much it wiped me out. I can only imagine how sore I’d feel if I tried double the distance or more.

I think the biggest sticking point for me is the training. To train for an ultra I think I’d need to be turning 150km a week or more. Last week I did 90km, and that was quite time consuming. 150km+ turns running into a job, not a recreational pursuit. The strain on my ageing body would also be pretty high. I’m not even sure I’m physiologically the right shape to even consider it. To be an ultra runner you need to be a skeleton with muscles attached and not a lot else. I’d fear for my knees and calf muscles.

I’m also worried about the type of people who enter ultras. By and large you’re going to be ranged against hardcore athletes. A marathon usually attracts a contingent of people wearing tutus or running the distance dressed as Bugs Bunny. There’s always going to be someone behind you in a marathon. In an ultra the slowest person is still going to be a force to be reckoned with. While I don’t have an issue with being last, I think I’d rather take part in an event where I was at least finishing among mid-table mediocrity.

So I guess I need to be realistic and put an ultra down as something I’ll try one day, but not this year. I’m not sure if this is cowardice, or realism. Or a mix of the two.

Best of luck to Ross though, and I’m sure he’ll acquit himself admirably.

I AM FAIL

A rest day today.

It wasn’t going to be, but a couple of km into my run I felt completely out of breath and realised I’d forgotton to take a puff of Ventolin before I set out. Asthma doesn’t usually bother me when I’m running, but today was very, very, VERY cold and that can sometimes trigger it. So I sacked it in, called it a rest day and accepted I’d drop a few places in the leader-board. 4km total for the day is pretty poor, especially as my arch rivals all put in mega mileage.  I could go out again now, but I can’t be bothered.

A bit defeatist, yes.

I’ve never been a high achiever though. Most of my life I’ve ambled along selecting the path of least resistance. I have something of a knack for identifying actions that deliver maximum reward for minimum effort. I’ve generally been successful in life using this technique – usually at the expense of diligent hard working people

This behaviour has always extended into my sporting endeavours. I am not a natural winner. I do not have a killer instinct for victory. Once, in university, I managed to lose 24 consecutive games of pool. Fair enough if it was 24 games of pool against one person who was better than me – this was, in fact, a variety of opponents some of whom could barely hold a pool cue and spent most of the time with it stuck up their nose. I’m not a bad pool player but a I have a losers mentality, and by the time I’d fluffed the 7th or 8th game I was so convinced I was going to fail it became a self-fulfilling prophecy. I only won in the end because one of the other players ate a ball or something equally ridiculous. I can’t remember now.

So yesterday’s small flicker of excitement that 6th place in Janathon was within reach was tempered with a realisation that I’d inevitably wake up to find the weekend runners had put the boot in. And sure enough, a quick check this morning saw me falling faster than a Pop Idol’s chart single after a drug scandal. The question is, how to react? A winner would step up to the plate. Grind out the miles. Get back in the fight. Make this a harmless, temporary failure blip not a permanent catastrophe.

But one shambling 4km run later and I’m holed up in front of the TV under a duvet.

I’m going to fight on. I want to be top ten, at least, by the end of January. I’m not sure why. Is there any difference between being 8th or 26th? There are no medals, ticker tape parades or naked dancing girls at the end of this. Just a sense of personal satisfaction.

Which has never, historically, been enough to motivate me to do anything.

Perhaps January 2012 is the month things change. Or perhaps I’ll just spend the next 16 days under this duvet.

Find out tomorrow!

Running is SO BLOODY BORING

Today dawned FOUL.

As a trudged through horizontal rain doing the morning round of food for all the animals on the farm my motivation for running was dangerously low. Thankfully after a couple of bowls of Sugar Puffs (well, the terrible French equivalent, let us call them Le Sugar Puffs) I was raring to go, and did another 10km.

I’m a little slow at the moment, though. My aim for this year is to finally get my PB for the 10km below 40 minutes. At the moment I’m running 55 minutes, so I think the two months of inactivity and stuffing my face might have impacted my athletic performance somewhat. Still, barring horrible injury, alien abduction or me making the Olympic rowing team (unlikely, as I’ve never rowed) I should be back on top form by the end of the month.

I couldn’t find any especially interesting photographs, so here’s one of my current running shoes.

I think they’re Asics Gel Kayano 17s. Whatever they are, don’t buy shoes like these. They’re heavy and have Delorean build quality. I often think I’d be better stapling two copies of the Radio Times on my feet and running in them. Terrible, terrible running shoes.

Seeing as we’re talking boring, I suppose now would be a good time to point out how bloody boring running is to a non-runner.

It is.

You might not think it is, and I don’t think it is, but to a non-runner any discussion about running is about as exciting as peeling an orange.

They have a point I guess. Running is a fairly tedious sport because it really is quite simple. You put on trainers, you move your legs, you cover a particular distance, you stop. For sure, there’s a flutter of excitement about which brand of Garmin you choose to wear and whether full length lycra leggins should ever be worn by a man (answer: no, never) but by and large running is brutally straightforward.

When a person first takes up running there’s a torrent of achievements. e.g. The first time you manage to run 5km without stopping and vomiting on a passer-by. The first time you run 10km in under an hour and go home and demand sex off your girlfriend as a reward (before she punches you in the face for being cheeky). The first time you outrun another runner, possibly a man in lycra leggins (answer: no, never) and flip them the bird while laughing like a Bond villain. Each of these milestones (or kilometerstones) is something that means a great deal to the runner, but nothing to friends and family. Try to tell a nearest and dearest about any of these achievements and unless they’re a runner themselves the likelihood is that their eyes will glaze over and they’ll absent mindedly start poking themselves with a spoon. Or even worse, they’ll look at you with the cool air of someone who thinks you’re getting ahead of yourself. That running isn’t really a sport for the masses, but an ungentlemanly pursuit that only whippets and Northeners should engage in. It’s hard when you realise that nobody really cares about pace, pronation, cadence, footpods and space-age wicking material like you do. It hurts.

You also have to blame Eddie Izzard for devaluing the marathon distance (“you’re only doing one?”) I felt almost embarrassed to admit that I was only going to run a paltry 42km and then have a rest for a few days afterwards. So not only am I engaged in a boring sport but my end goals are also boring (“you’re not running for 17 consecutive days through a Chilean rainforest dressed only in your Y-fronts? So why should I sponsor you?”)

To top it all, I’m even finding writing this blog post is boring me!

So I’ll stop.

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