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Beat The Clock

Race number? Check.  Safety pins? Check.  Shirt, shorts, shoes? Check.  Gels, jelly babies, jelly-legged jalopy? Check.  

Oh it’s all coming together like a Flaming Pie’d Beatle with a yen for Japan.  Or a Byrne’d out talking head on a road to nowhere.  Or a zimmer man with any number of roads he’s impelled to walk down.  Talking of which, I’m on the low road and she’s on the high road, and many will be in Scotland before wee me.  I start in London, she starts with a Regent, but we both end at Muscle Beach…or something like that.

I’m talking Edinburgh Marathon Blues. Numbers, pins and energy tablets arrived today, so barring limb loss we will be on our way in ten days to the Scottish capital to run 26.2 miles for no other cause than the mere fact we can. Which is enough. I think.

The long runs are behind us, the long run before us. We’re tapering hard (if that’s possible, because frankly tapering is easy, running less has never been a problem for me). Targets have been set, plans and splits discussed, fuel strategies practised.  I’m as prepared as a boy scout with a Prince 2 badge.  So like a moustachioed Mael and his kid brother all I have to do is beat the clock (you gotta beat the clock, you gotta beat the clock).

What can possibly go wrong?


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7 Songs About Running

Like a Saturday night Channel 4 programme commissioner needing to fill a three hour slot with a tuppeny budget or a monthly magazine columnist with a deadline to meet and a muse gone AWOL feared dead, this month’s wittering is a random collection of thoughts beneath a title that implies thematic coherence where in fact there is none.  Running Bear Solutions (motto: “never knowingly undersolved”) in conjunction with iToons brings you, “7 Songs About Running (Despite What Wikipedia May Have You Believe)”.

1. “Everybody Hurts” – in 1991 all four members of REM had completed the Athens Marathon (Georgia, not Greece) dressed in a 24ft tall Godzilla costume when they penned this paean to blisters, cramp and chafing.

2. “Blowin’ In The Wind” – Many people believe that Bob was providing the question to the ultimate answer to life, the universe and everything when he sang “How many roads must a man walk down” (42, the Bobcats say), whereas in fact the song refers to the time when he visited England and entered the Snake Lane 10.  He was clearly heard to mutter the immortal line as the Race Director led the entrants from the Race HQ through Pocklington to the start.  And everyone has made the same point since.

3. “Perfect Day” – I think we all know how witless X-less Factorites have mistaken the song’s tale as being about a nice day with Sangria and movies and zoos, when it’s patently obvious that it refers to the illegal and highly dangerous activity of pre-race number swapping (I mean what else can Lou mean when he sings “I thought I was someone else”?).

4. “Grounds For Divorce” – pretty obvious this one, warbled as it is by running widows the length and breadth of North Leeds as he exits the front door to meet up with his beloved Abbey once more.

5. “Where The Streets Have No Name” – Bono says it’s about religion and income but it’s bloody obvious that it’s about the Leeds Country Way and Leg 2 in particular where the routes have no signs, the instructions make no sense and your running partner has no clue.

6. “All Things Must Pass” – it’s a little known fact, pop pickers that George Harrison was a pretty good club runner in his prime, turning out for Hamburg Harriers, Blue Jay Wayfarers and latterly the Friar Park Runners.  No song more evocatively and poignantly captures the anguish of pre-race bowel evacuation.

7. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” – or “Smells Like Deep Heat” as the original demo was entitled.  In fact the whole Nevermind album can be best understood through the weird-eye lens of running.   “Come As You Are”: an encouragement to new club members.  “Something In The Way”: Kurt knew how cyclists, anglers and dogs on canal towpaths can be annoying.  “Territorial Pissings”: Dave Grohl witnessed first-hand the disrespect shown the bushes and trees on the first mile of the Leeds Half Marathon.

This article is available now as a podcast and playlist for your next run.  Just go to www.thebearisanass.co.uk create an account with all your personal details, choose a password based upon your grandmother’s first pet’s school, enter your credit card details, tick that you have read the 673 page terms and conditions that grant me the rights to your eternal soul and Robert is your mother’s or father’s sibling.

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“Don’t follow leaders, Watch the parkin’ meters”

I often wonder as I trudge around my latest race, what it must be like for a frontrunner.  Those of us who never have been frontrunners (in running or even in life and some would suggest they are the same thing, but that’s a digression for another day) and never will be (apologies to Haile Gebrselassie if you’re reading this, this clearly does not apply to you), spend our Sunday mornings toiling in and amongst the crowd; sometimes a crowd of many thousands, sometimes a crowd of few hundreds, but a crowd nonetheless.

There’s wisdom in crowds they say (well Derren Brown says,  and I believe everything he says ever since he turned up at the foot of my bed at 3 in the morning with a Channel 4 film crew).  Last week at a race reminiscent of the old joke about primates in need of a blow torch (that’s torch you, stop giggling at the back and pay attention), two members of Beverley AC tucked in, just behind me in 575th and 576th respectively, and proceeded to prattle on about mile splits, kilometre paces, race results and the cultural hegemony of the bourgeoisie built upon the false consciousness of the proletariat and their commodity fetishism (or it might have been about last night’s Top Gear, it was hard to be sure once my eyelids started to droop).  I’d like to say that their intellect, their sagacity, their wisdom filled me with a love of my fellow man, but I’d be lying.  It just annoyed me.  And I kept thinking, if you can talk so much in this race, you can’t really be trying.  And to prove it, I will try and that’ll show you.  It will show you to be the racing equivalents of Sunday drivers and then you’ll look silly.  Oh yes!  So I put the pedal to the metal and left them for dust.  Well, sort of.  In my head it definitely looked like that.  A more objective observer might have noted a marginal quickening of shuffle achieved through much puffing and wheezing that, over the course of 2-3 miles left them, ooh, at least fifty feet behind.  But I could hear them no more and that my friends was enough for me.

And as I surged on (maybe laboured would be a more apt verb at this point) I found peace enough to ponder to myself that if I’d been up front I wouldn’t have suffered this.  I told myself that out there at the front instead of the taste-free dazzle of fluorescent pink and yellow polyester, the stench of the unwashed and somewhat slightly grazed, the tinnitus of the MP3 and the torrential thunder of Saucony-shod Judoon, I’d have clear grey tarmac in my sight, fresh air in my nostrils, a song in my heart and the gentle chirruping of mistle thrushes in my ears. Because that is what it’s like at the front, isn’t it Haile? It’s just like that, isn’t it?

In the meantime, my friends, keep on running, keep on hiding…