Tuesday, 8 September 2020

I won but didn' t really

The other day my daughter came across an old diary she had kept in 1998 (she was 6 year old). Her entry for the 2nd May states that she had come to watch me race. She describes the course as a short lap, a long lap, a short lap and then a long lap. She say's that it started to rain and she took cover in a bus shelter and ate a bag of crisps. There is no mention of what race it is or where it took place. But she does write that I won but didn't really. Intrigued I dug out my old running diary and found that the race was the Croxdale 10 mile road race. The event also incorporated he VAANE 10 mile championships. I finished 3rd overall in a time of 53.43, and as first over 40 won the VAANE championships - hence the comment that I won but didn't really.

Monday, 10 August 2020

Running free or is Paranoia setting in?

Looking at my 'stats' on Strava I can see that I am currently averaging 48 mile per week. I am reasonably pleased with this, especially as I effectively lost another 4 weeks of training earlier in the year. However the 11 weeks since have been fairly consistent and last week I reached 96,000 miles in my quest to run 100000 miles prior to my 65th birthday I was late to take up using Strava. One of the reasons being vanity. I know I can run nowhere near the modest standard I used to be able to and didn't really want to share that with others. I succumbed to the online process at the request of my sister who asked me to monitor her training when we were working towards the Endure 24. Strava can be useful and like all social media mildly addictive. It can be a positive force, from an accurate recording system to a motivating tool through comparisons against your own previous efforts and against those of your peers. It can also hold you to account. But there is also a down side to Strava, or indeed any such social media platform. It's use can Entice you to tweak your intended training plan as you know other people will be looking at what you are doing. These changes could be small, such as running a little faster than planned because you don't want to look slow online. Numerous changes like these can add up, so eventually your training / behaviour is modified to be more accepted and 'normal' with the activities and conduct of others online. Following this thought process through, then eventually the freedom to run and make our own judgements on the training we do in respect to how our bodies feel and our own individual needs and goals can be stifled by a move to conformity. In the 70's French philosopher Michael Foucault proposed that a society of discipline has evolved and that disciplinary process have been created to promote docility and a lack of human individuality in society. People are standardised and individual complexity is dampened and freedom lost in favour of conformity / acceptance. I shall continue to use Strava but with care

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Looking forward; looking back

Last week saw the postponment, due to Covid pandemic, of my last pre- entered race for this year and it's looking increasingly likely that there may not be any races at all this year or at least until the very backend of the year at the earliest.

The race in question is the Great North Run and this year was due to be the 40th running of the event with around 60,000 entrants. A massive increase on the 12,000 that took part in the first event back in 1981, of which I was one.

I have detailed elsewhere in this blog how it was because of the very first GNR that I started running. So I will not go over old ground again. But I am looking forward to next years event.

Taking up my theme of picking a random date and looking back at which races I have ran on that date in the past; if we take today, the 2nd July then in:

1986 - I ran the 1500m at the Tyneside Track League finishing 1st in 4.09. In those days the track league was so popular that there were a number of races held over each distance. This race was the 'H' race. I also. ran this race just 3 days after finishing 5th in the Derwentside 10 mile road race (55.09).  Blaydon Harriers taking first team.

1988 - Division 3 League match at Lightfoot Stadium, Newcastle. Finishing 6th in the 5000m (15.16). The race was won by C Walker of Bingly Harriers with Mandales Kevin Brown 2nd.

1994 - Northern League Division 5 match at Middlesbrough where I finished 2nd in the 5000m in 15.34.5 behind John Ranson of Chester le Street (15.12). I also ran a leg of the 4 X 100 - not very successfully!

2003 - World Masters Athletics Championships, Puerto Rico where I ran in the 8km cross country finishing 8th (29.07) in the M45 catogory. I remember the race starting at 6am to avoid the heat of the day!

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

Lignes de desir

While out running,  latterly I have noticed a lot of new tracks trampled into the ground. In his 1958 book 'The Poetics of Space' Gaston Bachelard wrote of  "lignes de desir", Transleted as Desire Paths, a Desire Path is an unofficial pathway created by consistent use, by trampling the grass and eroding the ground beneath.

Desire Paths tend to be an unofficially established short-cut between two points, but need not necessarily be a short-cut. These route ways tend to be an urban phenomena, although I have noticed them being established alongside and between country walkways.  Especially since the introduction of social distancing due to the Covid situation.  With Desire Paths running in parallel and on either side of country footpaths as users attempt to maintain their 2 metre distancing whilst passing each other.

Monday, 15 June 2020

Birds of the Derwent Valley

I have recently re-discovered a book that belonged to my Grandfather. Published in 1896 Birds of the Derwent Valley, as it's title suggests is a compendium of the birds spotted in the area.  The introduction describes  the Derwent Valley as being "much better known by tourists and excursionists since the opening of the Shotley Bridge road and the Consett Branch of the N.E.Railway".

The road is now the A694 and a busy commuter route to Gateshead and Newcastle, while the Consett Branch of the N.E.Railway is now the Derwent Walk.  Being a member of Blaydon Harriers who are based near one end of the 'walk' and living in Medomsley, a few mile from the other end, the 'walk' tends to feature heavily in my training runs.

The Derwent Walk is an 11 mile route which rises gently, just over 500ft from Swalwell at its northern end to Consett in the south.

On this mornings 5 mile run I spotted Curlew and a Red Kite (introduced into the area in the '90's). And, so back to the book, which reflects a different time and attitude.  With a surprising number of the birds featured being identified after they have been shot or their eggs taken.

Tuesday, 9 June 2020

The 9th June -races on this day

Today should have been the 40th running of Blaydon Harriers, Blaydon Race. A road race whose route follows as close as possible  the route taken in Geordie Ridley's famous song of 1862, When he left Newcastle for the horse racing in Blaydon.

Like all other sporting events, this year's race has been cancelled due to the Covid 19 pandemic, with entries being rolled over to next year.

Of the 39 race to date I have taken part in 34 of them.  I wasn't actually racing when the first one took place in 1981, not joining Blaydon Harriers until the end of July off that year.

The distance of the race varies from year to year due to changing road layouts, road works etc. But is usually between 5.2 and 5.9 miles.  Although one year when Scotswood Bridge was closed it was well over 7 mile.

My best position for the race was in 1987 when I finished 10th in 28.49 and in 1997 I was first over 40 (16th overall) in 29.38.

Sunday, 17 May 2020

Two years left

Today is my 63rd birthday and that leaves me exactly 2 years to meet my target of running 100,000 miles before my 65th.  Unfortunately progress towards this has taken  yet another hit with further injuries but the current total is 95545 mile.

In my last post I said I would pick random dates to look back at, to see what races I had ran on that date.  Admittedly 17th May is not a random date - did I mention that it is my birthday?

But why not?

I have raced on the 17th May on two previous occasions. The first was in 2007 for my 40th, in those days that is when you entered the Masters (Veterans, back then) ranks, not at 35 years of age, as it is now. As Blaydon had entered teams in the BMAF National Road Relay Championships at Sutton Park, my target was to run the first leg in the M40 race and come back in first place. The course was advertised as 3.2 miles but if you check out the BMAF website you will notice that they record the course as being 'long'.

At any rate, I remember lining up at the start of the race, a bundle of nervous energy and when the gun went off I hit the front of the field right from the start, pushing the pace throughout.  I felt quite comfortable until a section of the course where you doubled back on yourself at the bottom of a hill and headed back up.  I didn't have a large lead and it was quite frightening seeing the whole field lined up behind me as they came down the hill. However, I remember trying to relax and push on.

I maintained the lead until about 600 meters or so from the finish when a Redhill runner (I think it may have been Dave Wetherall) came past.  So I tucked in behind him until we turned into the run-in which was uphill and with about 200 to go, surched past to handover in first place - job done!

Unfortunately Blaydon slipped down the field as the race progressed with Redhill taking first team from Sunderland and Tipton.  My time for the first leg was 16.20 (9th fastest of the day). With the fastest time of the day of 15.30 going to Nigel Gates.

It was 10 years later and my 50th birthday when I next raced on 17th May. When I set off for Ragensburg in Germany and the European Masters Non-Stadia Championships where I ran the 10km road race.


The previous day had been warm and sunny, but as we lined up for the start of the race it was a cold wet, blustery day.  Although I don't think I ran too badly it was one of those races where you can't seem to settle and finish knowing that you haven't done yourself justice.

I finished in 13th place in 35.28, 2nd out of the 12 British runners racing, first Brit being Alex Rowe in 5th place overall with a time of 33.48.  The race was won by Germany's Johann Hophner in 31.39.