We run and we run RaceBest. This blog is about running, but it's also about what we're up to at RaceBest.

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Join Together

Writing takes time. So does running. Writing about running is even more time consuming. It is definitely not multi-tasking. Writing whilst running risks injury, although on the plus side I’m sure You Tube fame could be achieved by strapping a laptop on, cinema usherette-style armed with Cornettos, choc-ices and albatross only to disappear down a unattended manhole. You know, something like Charlie Bit My Finger or Benton but less winsome and featuring a grumpy bear with an axe to grind rather than a loveable Labrador with red deer to chase. All of which is to say in words of more than one syllable, that I do not devote enough time to the written word, because I’m too busy running, watching other people running or doing things that help other people do running or other people do watching other people running.

Now that last sentence could take me anywhere. You may have gathered by now that I often set out with no idea what I am going to write about, taking my lead from the last word that tripped out of my brainpillow. Sometimes I run like that too, by which I mean, I set out from the front door with a route that is no more planned than “turn left at the bottom of the road” followed by random turns to see where I end up. Of course that can be a recipe for disaster; before now I have ended up back at my front door only three minutes after I locked it or found myself eyeball to to eyeball with a frisky bullock signing “just try to reach that style, go on I dare you, no I double dare you”, which is no mean feat for a bullock what with the cloven hooves and all (an opposable thumb isn’t just for changing channel, you know).

I set out intending to write about running clubs, because they have been much on my mind of late. That’s one of things I meant by “doing things that help other people do running” (last sentence, first paragraph, pay attention). I joined a club ten years ago and I’d like to say it transformed me from an overweight, under-achieving joggleslug to a lean, mean runner bean, but I’d be lying (which is not to say that there aren’t plenty of examples of just such a transmogrification, simply that I’m not one of them).  There are two words in “running club” (literacy and numeracy in one sentence, are there no limits to his insight?) and neither of them is bibble.  When I started with this running lark, I stood on the outside, looked at the running club runners and thought, elitists, whippets and oddbods. Then I joined a club, got to know these running club types and adjusted my typology to equals, retrievers (some golden) and oddbods.

Because oddbods do exist in disproportionate numbers in running clubs, perhaps because of the sport’s individualism (there’s no “I” in team but there is in running, along with “u” and “rnnng”).  It’s a strange cult where the thing that brings us together is a desire to go faster than walking and leads us to worship at the words of hi-viz, low profile, midfoot soothsayers, all the time trying to get away from the herd behind us in order to catch the pack in front. But I found a home with the oddbods, because I found that the shared obsession was no more their whole definition than it was mine: if you prick us do we not bleed, if we strain a calf muscle do we not say ouch?

But then there is the club word.  For one who has lived his life according to the Marxist philosophy of “I don’t care to belong to any club that will have me as a member” it is mighty discombobulating to find myself evangelising to the unaffiliated the benefits of the affiliation and giving up many, many hours to make the club bigger, better and less reductive (my urge to crowbar in yet another song reference may have made that last clause nonsensical, but that would assume that the rest of what I write is sensical).  

Anyway, to cut a long run short, clubs are a good thing. They make you run and they make you a better runner. They make you new friends. They make races. They make you faster, slimmer, and more attractive to the opposite sex (ok, maybe not that). They make running. Join together with the band  


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Age shall not wither her…

…or him for that matter, but let us not in gender waters be drowned, for thou art set upon a course of time and distraction of sex shall be banished from all thoughts…for a little while at any rate.

Youth is celebrated far and wide and grey hairs hidden in this 21st century dystopia we call the West.  This is particularly true in sporting endeavour, where a footballer is called old in his 30s and tennis players retire in their 20s.  But running is rare amongst sports because you can genuinely improve as you age (some might say like a fine wine, but I might say like a fruit cake).  I took up running 10 years ago and even now can achieve times better than when I was younger.  Furthermore, the wonders of WAVA age-graded scoring mean I can not only beat my younger self even when I am ostensibly slower, but more importantly for my increasingly-irrelevant ego, I can beat those half my age.  For the WAVA rating, by telling me that my time was 65.3%, when the youngster who finished ahead of me was 59.0%, is basically saying I tried harder, 6.3% harder than he did, and he needs to pull his finger out and make an effort, just like me.  That said, the 67 year old haring past me has me well and truly beat on all counts, except that I’ve got more hair (although that is probably slowing me down, so I could beat him if only I reduced my drag co-efficient and sported a shiny pate).  This sort of petty point-scoring is what keeps runners so competitive (winning even when they’re losing, and also losing sometimes when they’re winning) and, let’s be honest, so boring.  Like Clarkson, but with less denim.

In my running club some of the most respected and celebrated runners are in their 50s, 60s and 70s.  Members in their 20s and 30s are expected to be fast, so respect is tempered, but older runners are expected to be, well, old, so when they defy their chronology, we are in awe.  Not that anyone is in awe of me, but that’s probably because they think I’m young, what with still having all my hair (did I mention that already?).

“…nor custom stale her infinite variety” is the concluding part of the quotation and to stretch my Shakespearean muse yet further (that crack you will hear shortly is the sound of an analogy snapping), this is true of running too.  Even when we repeat a route or a race, it is always different and I may never tire of the endless variety that comes from running, because each time I step out I am, if nothing else, changed by time.  So despite its relentless forward march that adds  further minutes and seconds to my 10K best, I can take comfort in the knowledge that my age-grading does not diminish…just like my hairline.

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Our time is running out

Where does the time go, you know, when we’ve done with it?  I mean, when it’s gone, used up, behind you, where is it kept?  Is it being stored in a great big cosmic bedroom at the back of a great big cosmic house? Or is being catalogued so that our descendants can search it to find out exactly what shape Tuesday was and how much January 2007 actually weighed? Or do we just recycle it and in fact the moment you are currently experiencing was last here as a long, dull, Medieval Sunday with nothing on the telly.

The question, where does the time go, applies equally to the yawning chasm between the last time you spoke to your bestest ever uni pal and the news that he has just got divorced as it does to the distance between the starting gun sounding and the time now showing on your PaceMaster 3000.  Regardless of race distance there’s always a point where either you’re ahead of time or you’re behind time, or if you’re really lucky, in the moment, but whichever is true, it also true that you just lost 20 minutes or 2 hours of your life that you will not only never get back, but also will never be able to locate, because THEY won’t tell you where THEY keep it.  Of course this now raises further questions, such as, if you’re ahead of time, what does the space between time and you feel like? If you slowed to let time catch up, would time thank you or just elbow you out of the way, immune to your protestations because he or she (gender is a debate for another day) is wearing headphones and in the zone aided by Queen’s Greatest Hits (6 million Brits can’t be wrong) on repeat.  Or if you’re behind time what does he/she look like?  I imagine a big lilac splodgy mass, not unlike Barbapapa but then that’s my age.  Of course, time has been defined more precisely as a big ball of wibbly wobbly, timey wimey stuff, which clearly supports my Barbapapa theory.

And I can’t even begin to ponder the correct tense for this horological debate, so I’m just going to ignore it, unlike the White Rabbit who just overtook me on the way to the finish line.  Him, I will follow, down the Rabbit Hole (“Don’t Stop Me Now!”). Maybe that’s where the time is.  In the Underland, guarded by Morpheus and the Time Lords (a glam rock band that never lived up to their early promise).  If I’m right, you’ll see me break the two hour marathon barrier at Manchester. If I’m right, you have already seen me break the two hour marathon barrier at Manchester, in fact you have just retrieved that moment from the cosmic catalogue, and it weighed a ton.  Yeah, I know. Heavy.

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Not yet halfway

Marathon training is a slog.  In fact it’s a bit like running a marathon. A lot of miles, a long way, a journey where the end is not conceivable, let alone visible, when you are at the start.

I’ve reached Week 6 of 16 (37.5% for all you statisticians).  In marathon terms that means I’m just approaching Mile 10…16.2 to go.  Which still seems like a long way. Probably because it is.

My weekly average is over 44 miles, which is definitely more than I’ve done before.  And whilst part of me thinks that none of this seems to be having any impact on my readiness for a marathon, there is evidence that it is.  I ran the Dentdale 14 at the weekend (which I thoroughly recommend for those of you who like hilly courses in beautiful surroundings topped off by cream teas made by the good lady villagers of Dent) and felt as strong on the last hill (mile 13) as on the first.  And I know that would not have been the case six months ago.

So with 10 more weeks of my training to go, I guess I’m heading in the right direction.  But when I think of having run 10 miles with 16.2 to go I struggle to think anything other than “OH. MY. GOD.”

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Never say never again

They made me do it, your honour.  I said no, I said never, I swore on someone or other’s grave. But they wouldn’t let it lie, the voices in my head and the ones by my side.

And in the end it was easier to give in, go with the flow, let the long runs wash away my sins.

So 26.2 is back on the menu boys (and girls).  For the third time in Edinburgh, the fourth time in Scotland and the sixth time of asking.

And Mrs Bear is doing it too.  Baby Bear isn’t.  She’s far too distracted.

I’ll try and keep you posted.

Just 23 weeks to go.


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Tonight, tonight, the highway’s bright…

Out of our way mister you best keep
Cos summer’s here and the time is right
For racin’ in the street

The summer is indeed here, well according to the Gregorian calendar it is, and if I stick my head out the window, I can definitely make out a distant patch of azure in and amongst the grey clouds and driving rain.  British summers: love ’em or loathe ’em you just can’t avoid ’em (unless of course you book a flight to the Balearics).

But summer does bring with it late sunsets and late sunsets bring with them the pleasures of light-filled evening-runs around water-filled holes-in-the-ground.  Having strained away all winter beneath the downtown sodium glare of Headingley and Horsforth, Meanwood and Moortown, the advent of British Summer Time presages the return of the restorative respite that is Eccup Reservoir.  Eccup Reservoir, home to dog walkers and dogs, cows and calves, twitchers and twits, where the red-breasted, lesser-vested Abbey can feast upon the flies, frolic upon the flora, and fornicate with the fauna (allegedly).

Tuesday evenings have a familiar hue at this time of year, as Abbeys from far and wide skip through the fields and meadows of Eccup, dash around the lapping waters of Eccup, and speed through the hamlet of Eccup.  In fact, it is written in the Book of Peter, chapter 4, verse 8, that whenever two or more Abbeys are gathered together within 60 nights of the Summer Solstice that regardless of wherever they start and the direction they take, they will not find a path to enlightenment, but a trail towards Eccup.  All roads do not lead to Rome, all roads lead to Eccup, or ecce homo ergo Eccup as Hadrian said when he took a weekend break from building his winter windbreak.

But other reservoirs are available.  Summer weekday racing in the streets, in practice, often means journeying to the shores of Lake Esholt, Loch Swinstey and Lac du Fewston.  In this respect, we have it good compared to our soft southern counterparts because we have reservoirs filled to the brim with water just waiting for us to run round and round.  Pity the poor South of England runner, who has, in his drought-ridden village of burnt-thatch cottages, parched lawns and unwashed cars, nothing more than a small pond populated by two dehydrated ducks to circumnavigate.  The Eccup 10 is measured in miles, the Medway Meander is a point to point race between the paddling pools of numbers 12 and 14 Acacia Drive.

So, although down South they may have more jobs and more money, up North we’re faster and fitter because we’re the ones who can run in the summer because we’re the ones with all the water!

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And you run and you run to catch up with the sun

But it’s sinking
Racing around
To come up behind you again

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free and I’ll give you the Abbey Massive on the second cold Tuesday in September.  Hand rubbing, self-hugging, foot stamping, clad in nowt but triple-layered lycra long johns and luminescent yellow jerseys (has anyone else noticed how many Tour de France winners there are in Abbeyville?), they low like cattle indignant at the unannounced and unwelcome annexation of their hay manger by a newly awoken one-in-the-eye-for-Dawkins infant (I am categorically NOT going to mention how many shopping days it is until Christmas at this juncture) and shiver, shake and shudder as if their quivering, in itself, will generate the will needed to overcome the nagging feeling that an evening at the bar would be a better way to spend the next sixty minutes.

However, whilst that was true the second Tuesday of September, it was so not the case two weeks later.  The seasonal mayhem that is so random it’s predictable, and to which by now we ought to have become accustomed, particularly as it can be blamed for everything from late trains to poor high street sales figures, played its anarchical hand and delivered not so much an Indian summer as a sub-Saharan heat wave.  Just when you’d put all those skimpy summer shorts and variable velocity vests (no I don’t know what I mean by that either) at the bottom of that smelly kit drawer, the mercury soars ever upwards like an atom bomb about to oh oh oh oh oh explode, breaking all records on its way (in fact, I understand, a record previously held by my county of birth was broken by my adopted county…if the fates are trying to send me a message there it’s far too cryptic; please hang up and try again).  It’s too darn hot and I for one do not like it.  No I do not.  When Blighty-hot has been and gone (and once again failed to outstay its welcome) its return is as welcome as Nick Clegg in a student union.

As we enter October 2011, month of 5 Saturdays and 5 Sundays and 5 Mondays, (apparently the first time, since 1188 trivia fans) it should be mild, it should be clement; it should be autumnal, dammit.  It’s just too confusing for a bear of little brain to experience simultaneously, concurrently, contemporaneously and undoubtedly unnecessarily tautologically the blazing sun baring down upon me as the falling fruit of the chestnut, beech and oak bruise my battered back (wow, even I think that sentence is just trying too hard!).

For those who plan to run a North West Marathon on 9th October, I can report that Michael The Fish says you won’t need the sunscreen and there is absolutely no risk of a hurricane.  For anyone who ran on 1st – 2nd October, the doctor will see you now.