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Monday, 24 January 2011

A bumper week

Last week was a bumper week mileage-wise, the old Runningfox having clocked up a grand total of 39 with some fairly fast ones - five @ average 7.18 pace and lots of 48 sec intervals @ average 6.45 pace. I'm not quite sure why (!) though there's a 10K race at Meltham this weekend (Jan 30th) which I might do if I don't get too excited about jetting off to La Palma in the Canary Islands a few hours later for some warm weather training. A New Year resolution was to try to do twelve races, one for each month of the year, so Meltham is very much on the cards.
Maybe 39 miles was a few too many because I'm currently feeling a bit Blah, though my powers of recovery, especially when the adrenalin starts flowing, are usually pretty good. Not having raced since the Derwentwater 10 last November I'm dying to know how my 2011 form measures against that of my geriatric contemporaries. Have the festive indulgences, and restricted training in all the snow, taken their toll?  Or has the rest been beneficial? I can't wait to find out.

 Addendum: Well, we did run the Meltham 10K race after all and conditions were perfect, a bit chilly as we lined up for the start but cool enough to keep the sweat down as we got under way over the rolling Pennine hills. Not being a 'morning' person I was feeling the pressure a bit with the 9.30am start but soon settled into a steady rhythm that got me round in 51.56, enough to win the MV75 category and beat the MV70 winner in the process. My finishing position was 206 from 363 finishers. So well satisfied. My wonderful Longwood Harrier partner clocked 63.02 in 332nd position, one place ahead of the legendary Ron Hill.
Full results here:

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

After the storm

It started raining on Friday evening, driven by a fierce westerly wind that rattled the Holly bush and arm wrestled the Silver Birch. It continued all weekend until the Wharfe burst its banks, flooding fields and  footpaths. Hills were cloaked in grey mist, streets deserted and smoke blowing in the lane as we stoked our fire against the dank chill. The only time we ventured out was to bring in more coal, more logs. Then, as we lay in bed on Sunday night, stars appeared one by one through gaps in the cloud and an almost full moon sailed majestically past our window, its silvery light creeping stealthily across the room, across our bed. What bliss. The storm was over.
On Monday morning after three days of slothful inactivity the temptation to lace up my Trail shoes and go for a run was irresistable. I'd mileage to make up so I opted for a favourite ten mile route along the riverbank to Barden Bridge - and back. The temperature had risen to double figures. Blackbirds were churning out their melodious tunes as if it were Spring. Mallard must have thought likewise for most of them were already paired, ducks bedazzled by the drake's gaudy plumage.
Water levels had dropped considerably though the river was still in noisy spate.   The path on which I was running to Barden had dried out remarkably fast. I waved to a heron that flapped lazily upstream on umbrella wings but, except for a neighbour with her dog and a friendly farmer at Woodhouse, there was nary a soul to be seen along the whole stretch of river to Barden Bridge. To find a better viewpoint for a picture of the bridge I decided to cross it. That done, and still feeling strong, I continued running for another mile, as far as the next bridge at roughly six miles. 
This was a bit farther than my computer brain had been programmed for, but I was enjoying it. The sun was out and I could feel it's wondrous warmth on my body as I turned for home with only my silent shadow for company. Hebden beck was still in spate as I crossed my last bridge by the Fish Farm.
My Garmin recorded 12.05 miles. It had taken 2 hours 8 minutes, not a great rate of knots but all the more enjoyable for taking time to absorb all the unfolding miracles of a rather magical day.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Ajit

An article in a fitness supplement of last Saturday's 'Guardian' about my old friend Ajit Singh brought back some very happy memories of our early association. I first met Ajit on a sultry July afternoon in 1992 after the last runners had crossed the line in the Pennine Marathon. My attention was drawn to a diminutive turbaned figure at the edge of the crowd watching the prize-giving. I doubt if he weighed 7st, his spindly legs were bandaged to above his knees and he sported the long grey beard and moustache of a typical Sikh. To my amazement his name was called to collect a prize in the MV60 category. He'd just completed this strenuous marathon with it's 2,000ft of ascent in 3.51.27. Here was a man I just had to get to know and it wasn't long before we became firm friends.
As a 'good for age' veteran he'd automatic entry into London '93 and insisted I should apply for an entry too to run it with him.  
"Sorry Ajit, I can't possibly afford a night in London, I'm out of work and on the breadline". 
"No problem, you can stay with me and my friends in Dagenham, it wont cost you a penny" he said. 
"But it costs money to get to London, and I don't like big cities". I countered. 
"It's only £15 return fare on the coach" he said, "you must come, you will easily beat all the over 60's".
Eventually I gave way to his positive persuasion, sent off the appropriate form and was granted a 'good for age' entry. 
Ajit - No. 22168
Thankfully, Ajit was familiar with London so knew where to pick up our numbers, where to catch the Tube to Dagenham and how to get to Blackheath for the start of the race the following morning. He made everything seem so easy. His friends and relations treated me royally, so I arrived at the Start Line in the form of my life, well rested, well fed and well prepared.
Only yards from the front of the Red Start I was over the line in seconds and straight onto automatic pilot, closing eyes and ears to all the race day razzmatazz and focusing all my faculties on the job in hand. My body responded like some well oiled machine programmed to get from A to B in the shortest possible time. Apart from obvious landmarks like Cutty Sark, Tower Bridge, Canary Wharf, I remember very little about the race, no elation (or otherwise) at the finish, or quite where I met Ajit to be guided to Victoria Bus Station for the journey home to Huddersfield. All I wanted was to get out of London as quickly as possible. I felt terribly claustrophobic. I hate crowds, I can't stand noise! 
It wasn't until three days later that the reality of what I'd done finally began to sink in and invoke an air of well deserved smugness. I'd picked up a copy of 'Athletics Weekly' in WH Smiths, turned to the Results section and learned what Ajit predicted had indeed come true. My time of 2.54.18 was good enough to win the MV60 title among runners from all four corners of the earth in what many regard as the world's most prestigious marathon, a virtual World Championship. 
I am deeply indebted to Ajit for bringing about one of the highlights of my racing career. Without his friendly persuasion and help of his friends in Dagenham I would never have got to London. Maybe it was something to do with his Sikh religion that Ajit experienced great joy from being the catalyst of my success. At the Pennine marathon he'd recognized a wee spark within me and fanned it into a flame. Thankyou Ajit, you are a truly magnanimous and wonderful friend to whom I'll be eternally grateful.

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

A time out from running


Village carol singers
I'm back, from the Yorkshire Dales, after celebrating the Holy birth and welcoming the New Year in some style!  For a period of twelve relaxing days it felt marvellous to be cut off from the world in a tiny village, away from my computer with absolutely no television, just a couple of newspapers and occasional snippets of news on the radio. Carol singers were out with their lamps and lanterns, braving the bitter conditions, harmonizing their voices around the village on Christmas Eve with all monies collected being donated to charity. Being somewhat croaky with the remains of a cold I declined to join them. 
For much of the time we couldn't get out of the village. Although there were Severe Weather warnings we tried  to get to the Ribble Valley 10K race in Lancashire on 27th but ungritted roads were like glass so we returned to the comfort of our warm cottage. It later transpired the race had been cancelled after a milk tanker slid down a hill blocking a bridge part way along the course. 
Christmas dinner
In spite of our lack of activity (no running at all between Christmas Eve and New Years day) we consumed a vast amount of food, though not the traditional Turkey. There are far too many days-worth of meat on a Turkey for our small athletic frames to cope with. And besides, we discovered a couple of years ago we can purchase a fair sized Chicken, a joint of Pork, a joint of Beef rump, lots of streaky bacon and Pigs in Blankets, giving us much more variation, all for less than the price of a Turkey. So we repeated that order again. Amazingly, after consuming a mountain of these calorific goodies and some delectable vintages my weight remained constant, though I dare say the fat/muscle ratio may have changed a little!
Icicles on Rivwr Wharfe at Linton Falls
For the first time in thirty years stretches of the River Wharfe froze from bank to bank. Temperatures dropped to -10ยบC creating problems with burst pipes in local houses and farms. Even our Methodist Chapel fell foul of an act of God so our Covenant Service was conducted in perishingly cold conditions. Ironically, it was one of the best attended of the year with insufficient Service Books to go round and more wine having to be sent for half way through Communion!
Hungry Heron by the fish farm
We're normally in Scotland to celebrate New Year but after some tricky experiences with roads and weather last year we reluctantly stayed at home this time. Instead we invited friends around on New Year's Eve for a traditional Scots supper of haggis (suitably saturated with a wee dram of Famous Grouse), tatties and neeps followed by rich Christmas pudding and brandy sauce to hold it down. A somewhat larger dram of single Islay Malt accompanied the midnight chimes amid cries of HAPPY NEW YEAR to us and all our friends. I'm not sure whose idea it was, though possibly mine, it was then decided the New Year might possibly be made even Happier with further applications of that wonderful amber nectar. We retired to bed at half past one, merry as Christmas!  That little session marked the Grande Finale to our festive activities. Nine hours later, after 2011 had dawned dull and grey with an arctic north wind sweeping down from Great Whernside and across the moor, I went out and ran ten miles.
Afterwards, as I climbed onto our new-fangled bathroom scales I learned my weight is exactly the same as it was pre-Christmas, body fat measures 17%, visceral fat 7% and my BMI remains at 22.1  It will be interesting to monitor these figures throughout the year. Ideally, I'd like to get my body fat down to around 13% but that means a lot of running, quite a bit more than the 944 miles I churned out in 2010.
Time for reflection
And here's a final thought for you to ponder as you ease into 2011. A septuagenarian fell running acquaintence, George Arnold of Preston Harriers, was asked by his doctor "Have you been a runner all your life?" George replied "No, not yet!"  I like that. None of us have reached completion yet. We are all 'work in progress' striving towards wholeness and our ultimate goal.  To paraphrase what Paul says in Phillipians 4  v13-14, "One thing I do, forgetting what is behind (in 2010) and straining towards what is ahead (in 2011) I press on towards the goal to win the prize for which God has called me". 
A Very Happy New Year to all my fellow Bloggers, readers, and all our loved ones.