Category: Running

Say Hello, Wave Goodbye

Well, what better way to round off things on this blog than to post a picture which I don’t have the real right to post, but which is, y’know, of me? Seems about right somehow.

Anyway, this blog is not dying, it’s moving – or, to be more accurate, I’ll be moving my attentions to my ‘new blog’ and so I doubt I’ll be posting here again (techical issues permitting) for the foreseeable future.

The reason for the move is pretty simple, really – for some time, I’ve been looking into trying to ‘streamline’ the number of places and locations I occupy online, and so I’ve revamped and reshaped my website so that it now includes automatic updates on my Twitter messages, and so it only seems logical that I shift the blog updates over there too.

I speak with utter confidence about this move, but of course if the server crashes or my technical ability reaches its limits, I may well be here again, so I won’t be deleting this blog. Many of the links which you can see in the right-hand column are on the new site, so you don’t have to feel lost and disoriented if you just use his blog as a stepping-stone to other people’s pages. I don’t mind being the guardian of the crossroads, even if Robert Johnson had his misgivings…

Anyway, I hope you’ll come and visit the new blog, and maybe you’ll even be so kind as to add John Soanes to your list of bookmarks? Thanks in advance.

Finally, if this is your last time of visiting, many thanks for your time and eyeballs over the last few years. It’s much appreciated, and as intermittent as my updates may have been in the last year or so, it’s always been reassuring to know that you fine folks were out there reading my nonsense. Seriously, you’ve been fantastic.

And you know what? So was I.

Virgin’s First Time

And welcome to all of you who’ve come here via a search engine; prepare for disappointment.

I know a lot of the regular audience for the blog are involved in writing, though I don’t know how many of you, like me, run; anyway, this is one of those occasional posts about running.

The London Marathon has, for a number of years, been officially known as the Flora London Marathon (though it was rarely spoken of as such), because of the sponsorship provided by a leading spreadable product. Prior to that, if memory serves, it was sponsored by Mars, the ever-popular chocolate bar. Nothing, it seems, symbolises health and a stern training regime so much as sponsorship from a foodstuff containing a proportion of fat.

That used to be the case, anyway. As you can see from the logo, and may have inferred from the Google-baiting title of this post, the 2010 London Marathon is being sponsored by Virgin – a firm whose interests are strangely scattered, from credit cards to cola. No, I don’t quite understand it either.

Anyway, if you’ve applied for a place in the ballot for the 2010 Marathon, the decisions are apparently in the post. However, since the UK postal service is currently being affected by strikes (many people have inevitably noted that it’s hard to tell the difference), the mailout of the YES and NO notifications has been a bit delayed. But Virgin will apparently be e-mailing people this afternoon to let them know.

If you don’t get a place in the ballot (which is the scheme whereby enter a lottery-style system to see if you get a place, and then pay for it), there’ll of course be a vast number of charity places available; those of you with unnervingly long memories may remember that I ran in the 2007 London Marathon for just such a charity.

For reasons which kind of escape me in the cold (well, currently more like grey) light of day, I’ve entered the ballot for the 2010 Marathon, and so I should be receiving an e-mail today to let me know if I’ve got a place. If I haven’t – and I think the odds are pretty slim – then I have, for the sake of my own sanity, vowed not to see about a charity place; in all honesty, the hassle of trying to make sure I reached the target for sponsorship was more of a burden than the physical act of training for, and running, the marathon. So I won’t be doing that again.

No, definitely not. Uh-uh, nosiree. Not doing that again.

Oh no, I’m “protesting too much”, aren’t I? Uh oh…

EDITED at 3.58pm to say: Just had the e-mail to say I didn’t get in through the ballot. And that, as I say, means I won’t be pursuing any other means of getting a place. That’s what I said, and as we all know, what I say goes. Granted, it usually ‘goes’ by the by within minutes, but let’s try for some kind of certainty for once…

My Butch Rapidity And The Dad-Dance I Did

Being the aforethreatened post about the seventh-day activities of one John Soanes; a post whose position in this world is hampered by the contrivance of its title, if not its contents

So, I promised yesterday to tell you about my Sunday of contrasts; the butch morning and the camp evening. And so I shall.

The rugged and manly activity in the morning, lest you should think I’ve taken up yomping or arm-wrestling polar bears or something new and exciting, was my perennial favourite of running. Specifically, the Great Capital Run in Regent’s Park in London. Yes, when much of the capital was groggily waking and wondering why there was a kebab on the pillow next to its face, I was tying on my running shoes and heading off to run.

Not that I was going too far, you understand – it was 5km (which I think equates to 3.3 miles), but I haven’t done a formalised bit of running in a while (possibly not even this calendar year). So I was both looking forward to it, as a test of my running ability, and dreading it in case I ran out of breath, fell to the ground, and soiled myself a couple of metres past the start line.

Still, I made my way to Regent’s Park (assisted, as ever, by London Underground, who had cleverly scheduled engineering works and station closures on eight of London’s eleven tube lines – they’d clearly decided that I’d run better if I’d faced a challenge in getting from A to B before getting to the run, and increased my adrenaline levels).

The race itself began at 10am, but at 9.35am there was a ‘mass warm-up’. This was a good idea as you should warm up anyway, but especially as it was moderately cold yesterday, and there’s nothing to be gained from running with unstretched or cold muscles. And it was a good warm-up session, with stretches of all available muscles, though at one stage I looked at the thousands of us, all putting our arms up in the air at the bidding of one man on a podium, moving in unison, and I couldn’t help but think it looked like a rather scary political rally. Only with tighter-fitting shorts.

Nuremberg aerobics completed, there were some proper – oh, sorry, I mean elite – athletes running as well, and they set off before the rest of us, at a pace that genuinely caused eyes to widen amongst the common herd. And just like the Generation Game, once the display of world-level ability was over, it was time for the less capable to have a go. They gradually moved us forward to the line, and then we were off.

Regent’s Park is a pretty good place to run – it’s generally flat, and the concreted paths we were running on only occasionally turned gravelly, and I have to say that it was well-marshalled; there was never any doubt about where you should be going next, even if – as was the case just before the 4km marker – it was slightly uphill.

I kept up what I felt was a pretty steady pace, and despite the handicap of having to run as part of a cluster of people (something you can’t really incorporate into running practice unless you’re really good at arranging flashmobs), I felt I should be able to make it in under 40 minutes, which was my fairly conservative estimate based on how practice runs had gone. It turned out that I was being overly harsh on myself, though, as I came in at just under 31mins (30m 53s, according to the official timing), which I was pretty pleased about.

The combination of the warm-up and the exercise left me feeling physically fairly enlivened, and awash with testosterone, which of course was important since I was just about to go off to an event which, I sincerely expected, was going to be more camp than Alan Carr performing a tribute to Larry Grayson.

Because, constant reader, I had agreed to attend the BBC Radio 2 event in Hyde Park called Thank You For The Music – a tribute to the music of Abba.

Now, there’s nothing inherently camp about Abba – granted, the intervening years have given their clothes a certain kitsch appeal, but at the time they were pretty much the fashion – and the music’s perfectly fine, though I would make an argument that only a dozen of their songs are ones which, as the cliche now has it, we all know the words to, and not all of them, as some people seem keen to maintain. But I’m not knocking the work, and when Mrs Wife asked if I wanted to come along, I agreed pretty rapidly.

Once the tickets had been bought, though, I suddenly realised that the event had a pretty strong chance of turning into a bit of a camp bash: Lulu was on the bill, then Kylie Minogue was announced as performing, I started to hear stories about ‘lots of people going dressed up’, and I had the sudden feeling that as a heterosexual male, I was going to feel slightly out of place. I foresaw a sea of peacock feathers and spandex, neither of which I can pull off, not with my colouring. Yes, yes, you’re right: I’m just jealous.

Anyway, when we got to Hyde Park, along with some 30,000 other people, I was reassured to see that it wasn’t the case. There were a few people in late 1970s style gear, but not many feathers. In fact, the nearest that I got to a feather boa all night was the white one draped around the neck of the very drunk man who danced – well, all right, swayed – around us for most of the evening, looking (to paraphrase Fight Club) like the corpse of David Tennant, if you gave it too much drink and made it shamble around the party being annoying to everybody.

But he was in the minority. It was a friendly crowd, and the music was pretty decent – The Feeling were clearly having fun, and some of the people I hadn’t heard of were very solid too, though I struggled to hear the vocals by Lulu and, later, Chaka Khan; was there a sound problem, or was someone on the sounddesk dialling them down for other reasons, I wonder? Hmm.

Benny and Bjorn took to the stage at the end, and thanked the crowd, and seemed genuinely rather surprised that their music was eliciting such a strong reaction so many years after it’d been written, which I thought was rather sweet; fireworks went off overhead, and we slowly made our way out of the park, once more to negotiate the hardly-running tube system and go home.

Not bad for the so-called day of rest, then; like New York, London is a city that never sleeps, but of course that means that it can be rather short-tempered, and doesn’t always look its best. Still, beats being bored, I think you’d agree.

That’s enough about my weekend, though; what have you been up to ?

EDITED TO ADD: If you want to see me gasping my way round the Great Capital 5K, click here and enter the race number 727.

As I Know He Reads The Blog, I’d Like To Acknowledge That My Brother – Though He’s Not Imaginary Like Donald Kaufman – Also Does His Job Jolly Well

There’s a poll currently running on the Writers’ Guild Blog : “Do you believe in writers’ block?”

The two answers given are ‘Yes, it’s all too real’, and ‘No, it’s just an excuse to procrastinate’, and if you want to, I think you can still vote, so if you feel strongly either way and want to make your opinion known, follow the above link and click away.

I’ve been mulling it over a bit, partly because of the question asked by the WGGB, partly because of this post by Andrew ‘They Call Me Mister’ Tibbs, though mainly because I’ve recently rewatched Adaptation, a good film which is certainly worth seeing (if you haven’t already done so).

As you may well know, the film tells the story of screenwriter Charlie Kaufman’s struggle to adapt the book The Orchid Thief by Susan Orlean into a screenplay, and interweaves the tale of the book itself with his writing struggles (with something that certainly looks like writer’s block), to the point where the film is ultimately more about that than the content of Orlean’s book (though that just be me preferring the tale of the storyteller than the flora-seller). In the film, Kaufman stares hopelessly at the blank page in his typewriter, wrestling with both problems of story and his own self-worth (made all the more prominent by comparison with his [imaginary] twin Donald, who has enormous success with his own more obviously populist script).

It reminded me rather of the post on Andrew’s blog, which refers to the recent Charlie Brooker programme, wherein a number of writers talked about the importance of actually getting down to writing – Tony Jordan puts it most straightforwardly when he says ‘A writer writes – the clue is in the name’ – and quite a few of them talked about how they’d write without necessarily knowing where they were going with the story. Andrew wrote about how the opposite of this can be to want to plot everything down to the smallest detail, and how that can lead to constant procrastination from the act of getting words down on the page – which is part of Kaufman’s problem in Adaptation.

I’m inconsistent in whether I plan things like mad or just dive into a story (though I invariably like to have an end in mind, lest I should go on writing for ever), although one thing I’ve realised is that it’s better if I keep my story ideas to myself; not for fear of plagiarism, but for the more mundane reason that if I get all giddy and intoxicated with the tale and end up blurting it out (usually in a half-baked form), that tends to dilute the need to write it down because – even on that pathetic level – part of me feels I’ve told the story. God only knows how I reconcile that with pitching and query letters, but I tend to make sure my first draft is finished before I get to that stage.

Anyway, I don’t really have an opinion as to whether Writers’ Block is real, though in a strange way I suspect that’s because I’ve rarely been in a position where my failure to words on paper has been like a kick to my sense of identity. I’ve only occasionally been called upon to write under that kind of pressure (well, outside of work, where the stuff I write about is usually non-fiction, though some might disagree). If I was a paid writer, I can well see that finding the well of inspiration had run dry would be akin to a bout of mental impotence – you want to do it, you know you can do it, but the more you think about it, the less likely it is to happen.

I wish I was more advanced in my writing career than I actually am – and I’m well aware that I’m the only one, ultimately, who can do anything about that – but in a way it does mean that the pressure is lower; by analogy, if I can’t be bothered to go out for a run (as has been the case more often than not since the clocks went back, and I have the waistline to prove it), I don’t have a coach or team who I’m letting down, and who’ll shout at me if I jeopardise my personal advancement, but if you’re a writer by trade, there are a lot of people who you could feel you’re letting down (as well as yourself). I can see why it could be a more pernicious situation if you feel you just can’t find it within you to write (or indeed run), so I wouldn’t want to say it’s not real just because I (fortunately) haven’t experienced it.

The main thing that keeps me from writing as much as I should, or should like to, is the tiresome and predictable issue of, you guessed it, time; again, I’m aware that I could squeeze in more writing and less loafing, and so for me at present this is a bigger challenge than Writers’ Block, though of course that may change in the future.

So, in summary, my concerns: Writers’ Block? Not yet. Writer’s Clock? You bet.

I’m Built Upside-Down – My Nose Runs And My Feet Smell

I don’t write about running that often on the blog – though some might argue that this is because I don’t really go running all that often either…

Anyway, on Sunday I was booked in to do a half-marathon here in London, but when I woke up it was lashing down with rain, and I had one of those poundy-temple headaches, so I decided against it.

And by crikey, I’m glad I did; runners are a pretty lot – after all, it’s ultimately their choice to go pounding the ground in all weathers – but it seems I missed a bad ‘un; according to posts from runners on Run To The Beat‘s own webforum, it was a mess from start to finish – transport difficulties getting there and back, a delayed start, bands not lining the route as promised, timing and distance inaccuracies, limited toilet facilities, and even the t-shirt which was supposed to be in the finishers’ goody bags appears to have been absent. Not exactly what you want when you’ve paid thirty (or in the case of some charity runners, fifty) quid to be there, is it?

Sometimes, a little voice at the back of my head tells me that rather than leaving home, I’d be better off staying at home with my lovely wife and drinking lots of cups of tea. It’s not always possible to listen to that little voice (there seems to be some correlation, for example, between me showing up for work and getting paid for it), but on this occasion, I’m very, very glad I did.

If You Don’t, I’ll Make Some Awful Snickers Joke. Seriously.

In just over a week – Sunday 13 April, calendar fans – my friend Chris will be pounding the streets of this nation’s capital. Which is to say, he’s running the London Marathon.

I did it last year, and frankly it’s dashed hard work, and as Chris is doing it in aid of Mind (the mental health charity), I’d like to take this opportunity to remind you that you can sponsor Chris by clicking here. It’s all secure and safe, and you can even boost your donation with the magic of Gift Aid if you’re a UK taxpayer.

And, if you’re one of those people who … well, let’s say ‘forgot’ to sponsor me this time last year, you can salve your conscience by slinging some money towards a similarly worthy cause.

I’ve always said that readers of this blog are lovely and generous and kind, and you won’t let me down, will you? Don’t let the title of this post influence you or anything, but… well, I’m always inclined to think one shouldn’t make threats which one wouldn’t carry out, if you see what I mean.


Your Not-Really-That-Humble Author

I completed the Silverstone Half-Marathon on Sunday, though not in any kind of impressive time (apparently, there’s a connection between training for physical exercise, and being able to do it. Strange, that).

Anyway, since I seem to have acquired some new readers recently, I thought I’d publish this (admittedly rather low-resolution) picture of me running on Sunday, so you can put a face* to the blog, as it were.

*As Victor Lewis-Smith put it, “it must be a face – it’s got ears”.

LINK: Run, That Boy, Run

As regular readers of the blog will know, last year I ran in the London Marathon. In my write-up for it here, I mentioned that one of the smiley aspects of the day was my friend Chris not only coming to cheer me on, but indeed running alongside me for a bit, which was welcome company.

I don’t know if the running bug was transmitted by my sweating onto him or something, but Chris says that he was rather taken with the whole thing, especially the cheerful atmosphere of the crowds lining the route, to the extent he’s managed to snare himself a place in this year’s London Marathon (taking place on 13th April).

As one would only expect from a friend of mine, Chris has decided to do the Marathon to raise funds for a good cause – in this case, the mental health charity Mind – and as I know that readers of this blog are both smart AND generous, I’d like to ask you to sponsor Chris. You can do this by visiting his online sponsor page, which is here. The site, by the way, is totally secure, and if you’re a UK taxpayer the magic of Gift Aid will increase your donation by 28%, so you can look even more generous and impressive.

Please do take a minute to sponsor him – he’s a jolly good egg, running for a darned good cause, and I think he deserves as much support as possible. And if you’re one of the lucky people who’s invited to my wedding later this year, you’ve got a conversation-opening line if you meet Chris: “Hey, didn’t you do the Marathon? Well done – I sponsored you!”

I’ll try to put a more lasting link in the column to the right of the screen, and I’ll probably remind you repeatedly as we get closer to the Marathon itself, but if you sponsor him today, you can regard all my future reminders with a smug sense of being one step ahead of the game.

As ever, I thank you – and I’m sure Chris does too (or at least he would, if he had any breath left in his lungs after all the training).

Ah, It’s Ages Yet – Loads Of Time To Train…

Before I did the London Marathon this year, I said to my lovely bride-to-be that after it was over, I’d probably never run again in my life – not even for a bus. “Uh-uh,” I predicted I’d say, “I’ve done a lifetime’s worth of running, thanks very much.”
She disagreed.

And she is, of course, right: today I’ve signed up to do the London 10K next May. As I’ve commented before, I’ve gained a lot of weight in recent months (I know, the idea that I’m celebrating completing the Marathon is a bit of a lame excuse six months down the line), so this is a perfect excuse for me to lose some of the lard.

Right now, of course, May 2008 seems very distant indeed, but I know full well it’ll come hurtling round the corner with shocking speed… something I’m unlikely to do if I don’t shed my excess weight, so I’d better start thinking about a training plan.

If you’re a Londoner, or even if you’re not, why not consider entering? It does costs a bit of money (£25, to be exact), but the atmosphere at the Marathon was terrific, and of course you get to run in what I, as I’ve said before, genuinely believe to be one of the finest cities in the world…

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