Tuesday, 30 November 2004

Veni, vidi, serpsi

Good people,

The citizens of Milan closed down the whole city centre last weekend, so Sean and I could begin our training for the London Marathon with a nice, long, leisurely run. With about 7000 other runners. It was as hopeless as could be expected, with my being unable to train for five weeks owing to a knee injury, and Sean's training being interrupted by an extended period of inattention. Alas, I know that many of you will be disappointed to hear that, contrary to rumour, I didn't come in fourth -- that was Raymond Kipkoech from kenya, who finished in about 2'11, making him a modest 101 minutes faster than me. But then, it was my personal worst, and probably quite close to his personal best.

The winner was Daniel Cheribo, in 2:08.38, shaving 19 seconds off the course record. Indeed the busload of Kenyans really put pain to any chances Sean and I had of a good showing, notwithstanding our rather brilliant decision to run it in kilometres instead of miles, which take so much longer.

But this wasn't about speed. it was about personal demons that needed exorcising after weeks of injury and apprehension. In particular it was about the demon standing on my shoulder screaming at me 'you'll never run again ... never forget the tibial nerve that stretches from that really sore spot between the ligaments behind your left knee right up to your lumbar vertebrae, joining it just where you have that herniated disk that laid you so low eleven months ago ... give up now', and variations thereupon. And later: 'don't worry about those two sexagenerians in the white flat caps, they're just faster than you, let them go on ahead'. Meanwhile my rather more retiring good angel was muttering 'just finish', as we ran around Milan, twice, and in and out on various axes, and north, south, east and west, on and on until we reached around the 30k mark and the bad demon began to lag a bit, and then at the 32k mark -- the point at which I knew I could finish it by pretending it was a noisy 10k with a nice 195 sprint added on -- he disappeared entirely, and my good angel took the pace. The finish line was at the duomo, where finally the crowd showed some spirit, and if I didn't deceive myself cheered the final burst of pace, as I completed the last 195 meters in 43.14 seconds (with a heart rate of 201). My bad daemon registered a d.n.f.

Milan looked splendid. The weather was cool and clear. Our hotel was very splendid, and the cooking by Sean's extended family was impeccable and plentiful. Many thanks to them. There's a picture of SM and JR in a post-race stupor, photographer Agostino "Testino" Arista. Note the to-die-for Italian running shirts, with the pink trim. We didn't have any personal support during those long, lonely kilometres. And believe me, some of them were very very long. I should single out number 41, when the knee was really screaming. And then I saw the spires of the hedgehog cathedral. So there is, to return to the subject of this paragraph, no running shot ... though perhaps if you scan the newspapers in your area ... no video either, as the Italian government decided to spare the cost of the ... ahem, the helicopters couldn't take off because of the fog, so the entire TV race coverage was of the guy at the front. And -- mark this -- we look forward to your support on a future occasion. There will now be future occasions.

We are back on the road.

runner no. 7206

Monday, 18 October 2004

calloo callay

If anything can be predicted with confidence, it's the weather in Great Yarmouth in October. Lashing winds, drizzle, big frowning horizon, minimum difference between sea and sky. How odd, then, that the sun should poke through as Sean and I reached the 3k point in this morning's Great Yarmouth Road Runners' Promenade 10k. Fortunately the sun soon thought better of it.

The official photographer was Marchamont. He, unfortunately, announced (to Sean's mum) shortly before the start of the race that running was boring and wanted to find some crabbers. There were no crabbers, but there was a fishing competition in town, and he discussed flat fish with a number of the competitors, and was allowed to handle a couple of flounders. He had a great time. This means, of course, that there were no photographs -- none except the one below, taken outside the GReat Yarmouth Promenade men's urinal, showing Sean and I looking limber.

My number was 103; Sean's as you can see was 303. Add them and you get 436. Line 436 of Beowulf reads: “I hereby renounce sword and the shelter of the broad shield" or something like that. Could it be a coincidence?

Up and down the promenade twice, and we were given a really cheap looking medal. Unfortunately -- again -- Marchamont and Sean's mum were off speaking to competitive fishermen, in possession of the car keys, so Sean and I had to run another five or so miles looking for them along the sea front in the lashing rain before we could retrieve our warm clothes.

Oh, I ran a 41:30, faster than I'd intended (you'll remember the miserable 43:50 in Cardiff six weeks ago). Sean forgot to look at his watch in the adrenalin rush.


Wednesday, 6 October 2004

Lost again

Good people,

I have lost another race. This time a marathon, but not for want of pace at the finishing line. The event was in Cardiff on Sunday 3 Oct 04, with Hurricane Ivan predicted to make landfall just as we reached the tip of the Severn Barage. As it was the weather was fine (i.e. coolish and damp) but for the last six miles, when it rained a little too much. And the course was mostly attractive, taking in not only the barrage but the castle keep and the millennium stadium.

We -- that's me and Sean M, my hoary pacer -- ran a very solid, conservative perhaps, run, with a nice negative split over the two halves and a fast 10k at the end. This meant that we passed people consistently for the second half, and looked good. At least on the outside. I could have done it faster, it seems, but I'm new to these things, and was too timid to push it until mile no. 23. At which point I'd hit approximately 3:11 and had therefore kissed goodbye to my target time of 3:30. Still, there's nothing quite like running a string of 7'20"s when you've 22 already under your belt, and ending up in the millennium stadium still feeling strong. In case you're wondering I am well, entirely vertical, and even if my quads are a little sore I ran a good 7.7 mi this morning, at fractionally under marathon pace.

Official data:
JR's race time: 3:34.47
average pace c. 8'11"
pace at finish line: 4'34" (!)
position: 273

c. 1200 entrants in full marathon; 828 completed
fastest time: 2:09.10; fastest time not in a wheelchair: 2:28.33 (second was 8 mins slower)

Thank you all for your continuing tolerance.