Sunday, 28 September 2014

For the record....

For the record, the running isn't getting any easier and my speed isn't getting any faster. In fact, things may be getting worse. This is the cost of a glorious summer spent in Edinburgh, gulping down every bit of theatre I could. And exploring the American West with my family, in all its sumptuousness. But no running. Price is high.  I can hear Father Time and Mother Earth having a good laugh at my expense every time I lace up my trainers. Sigh.

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

on...well, just typing about running....

Yesterday morning, Alice and I went for a run. I would like to say that we raced long, wind in our hair, solving all world problems, our feet but winged muscle, flitting weightlessly over the earth....

Alas, we spent most of it plodding along, moaning how unfit we had let ourselves become, while dodging dogs, baby carriages, scooters and overwrought mothers on the school run. The glory we seek in the Bath Half-Marathon (March 2015) seems a very long way off. Even further in the distance twinkles the New York City Marathon (November 2015). Are we ever going to be ready for these???

Well yes, I certainly hope so. Or not. I've given myself enough chances to improve between now and March. And collect a few medals in the meantime. Have registered for 5 races (so far). Everything from the Battersea Park 6K Fun Run (December) to the Royal Parks Half-Marathon, in two weeks, which will be an ugly sight. Not only  do I not like this race (always vow not to do it again, but then they offer me a place.....) I am not in any condition to finish it in a respectable time. But sometimes failure is a good thing (so I keep telling myself). And the strategy is that by training for these smaller races (and I am sure I will add more) I will be ready for the ones I really want. Well that is the plan anyway.

So what is the point of this blog piece today? No idea really. Just wanted to type out that I ran with Alice. And see New York Marathon 2015 in print. Small pleasures.

Monday, 22 September 2014

on gorillas....

In the full suit
 My racing season has started. Unfortunately, the calendar doesn't give two hoots that I spent the summer enjoying theatre and traveling the American West and having a thoroughly wonderful exercise-free time. Races have been signed up for. Races must be run.

Given that humiliation was always going to be part of the first race, I went as full-on as possible. The Great Gorilla Run. In a gorilla suit. In the City of London.  From Mincing Lane past the Tower and The Globe and St. Paul's and back again.

The amazing thing was, I wasn't the only one. There were at least 500+  crazy fools with me. Well crazier actually, as I made the least effort of the whole crowd. I couldn't even keep the top of the suit up, it was so big. Almost everyone else wore the entire suit PLUS a costume on top, many with the suffocating mask as well. Almost everyone else slowed to a walk within minutes of the start. It was a warm and muggy day, after all.
So adorable!

WHY????? I hear you all moaning. Well...I could say that we are all passionate gorilla conservationists and will do just about anything to raise money to protect their habitats. There are only 800 Silverbacks left in the world. As worthy as that is, I doubt that was the reason most of us were there. And certainly not me. Yes, I feel great sympathy for the plight of the gorilla and happy to do my small part. But the lure of running through the City streets in a gorilla costume was what attracted me. And why wouldn't it? Sounded so much fun.

Well the reality was a little less fun. But I learned several things about London and her people. London is a most marvelous place. It is a city in which you can travel in a crowded tube carriage for 11 stops, dressed in a gorilla costume, and no one looks twice, not even the children. I passed a man carrying a surfboard on the street. Now that really looked strange. But apparently only to me. No one else seemed to notice.

So many Gorillas
Londoners may be blase about the exploits of others, but they throw themselves into their own fun. People really made an effort with their costumes. Impressive.

This run was really a long photo op for startled, bemused tourists. And enthusiastic Londoners did not disappoint. The guys running ahead of me jumped into/posed with every tourist along the route. Shocked couples, delighted children, and lots and lots of grinning selfies with gorillas. It was a pleasure to watch.

Gorillas on Tower Bridge
And the crowds energetically cheered us on. Not just the tourists ("here come more," was something I heard shouted over and over), but cab and bus drivers, road workers, maintanence men, Starbucks and Pret employees, and all those other wonderful people who make London work. They honked and waved and called out "keep on going" and "well done."

And then things went a little wrong. Near the end of this 5 mile run, the disinterested and distracted marshal sent two us of us the wrong way. So we ended up having to do the long middle section twice. Usually I find running along Bankside a positive. But trying to run in humidity, holding the top half of a fake fur/plastic costume up, and negociating a bewildering number of stairs (instead of having us ever cross a road, we took each and every subway and elevated walkway available. Groan.) It wasn't ideal. But then, this certainly was not a race for time. It was a race to finish.

And I finished. Eventually. Conservationist Bill Oddie put the medal round my neck. He said, "thank you so much." I gave him a big smile. Pulled my suit off. And headed home. For some reason, carrying the gorilla suit attracted attention. "I have to ask, what is that?" the young man on the tube asked me. I told him the whole story. He laughed and laughed and laughed. I love making people laugh, even if it more at me than with me. I love running. I love London. And I love gorillas.

Bring on the next.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

on Invictus, strength and joy

USA Athletics competitor Redmond Ramos
Tuesday, still high on the amazing Invictus Games weekend, I pulled on my "I am the Captain of my Soul" t-shirt, with "Foo Fighters" emblazoned across the back and set off for a run....and ran the absolute worst run in years...maybe ever. I was too hot. Felt sick to my stomach. No pace whatsoever...

Both Ibi and Alice are much faster runners than I will ever be. Last Thursday they tried to convince me to join them on what sounded a hellish session on the track. One of these 800m x 4 then 400m x get the idea. The purpose is muscle building. Which makes you faster. I know this to be true. And I know that their willingness to do this makes them faster than me. HOWEVER, I love running. It is a pleasure and a treat. If I started doing things that made it a chore, I may give it up forever. So last Thursday night I accepted the fact that I will never be faster than I am now. Fine. No problem.

I don't run to win. Thank goodness. Cuz I don't win. I run because I love it. I love the adrenaline, I love the day dreaming. I love imagining the scornful zingers I should deliver to former bosses and boyfriends.  The novels I could write. The worlds I would save. I race because I love to cross a finish line. Accomplishing a goal. Very fond of medals. It is a pleasure. A simple pleasure. And a joy.

Wheelchair Rugby, GB v USA
That isn't to say my heart didn't pound during the Invictus Games. The excitement, the power, the fierceness of competition. The magnificence of winning. Not just winning. Overcoming seemingly impossible odds to win. Single amputees, double amputees, blindness, PTSD, to name but a few of the injuries. And yet, there they were. Pounding down the track, smashing it in rugby, flying through the water. The joy, the joy of the experience. What excuse do us mere mortals have??

Richard, Anne, Philippa & Craig
Closing Ceremony Concert
Frank Turner
And then the concert. James Blunt (what a lovely man), Frank Turner (my obsession), Kaiser Chiefs (good fun) and Foo Fighters (arguably the greatest rock band of the moment.) Dave Grohl, perfect
 frontman. As one reviewer wrote, their songs are "two fingers up to adversity," What a way to finish the Invictus be joined with 25,999 others screaming the lyrics "times like these you learn to live again..." and for a few brief moments I felt part of the Invictus community. What a fabulous feeling that was. And what utter rubbish. All it took for me to make it to Invictus was a journey on the tube to East London. Hardly a hardship. No injury. No rehab. No challenging myself beyond conventional limits. I won't even consider a few sprints round a track.

Jumping for Joy
Yet, yet, yet..... I may not have the Invictus strength. But I have the joyful heart. And that takes me pretty far.

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

on daydreaming about the circus...and the Invictus Games

Went running again this morning. And my legs hurt. A lot. And I started thinking about the former Royal Marine Commando I saw featured on the Invictus program on Monday night. When he described what getting back to "normal" meant, he said, "but I wasn't an average human being, I was a Royal Marine Commando" and I felt...No, no, no. Stop rolling your eyes, Reader. I am NOT about to tell you how this man's story inspired me blah, blah, blah. For heaven's sake. I am not a Royal Marine Commando. I am lazy and soft and old. Pain means "stop," not "work harder." What I felt was envy. Envy that someone could have such faith in their body, and a damaged body no less, to be able to confidently say "I can do that, even if it is agonizingly painful." So not me. But that of course is the point of the Invictus Games. Showcasing the unconquerable spirit.

And then my mind started racing, if not my legs. From the Invictus Games (current obsession) to Circus (other longer-term current obsession). Some of these wounded athletes would be ideal for acrobalance. To be a good base you have to have strength. They have it at a superhuman level. As a flyer (my role) you have to have trust. Would I trust a man who has gotten himself blown up to protect his friends? Ummmm, yes. Like, seriously, yes. Then I was off....crazy new plans fizzing and flying all through the brain cells.

Why shouldn't injured soldiers run away and join the circus. Seems like everyone else has!

Monday, 8 September 2014

Thoughts in Trainers...

Well.....I ran today. For the first time in a long, long, long time. I fear the last time I used the trusty trainers was when I put on a bunny suit and plodded round Clapham Common looking like a delusion guest at a terrible fancy dress party....not sure I felt any less ashamed today. At least I was moving at some sort of pace in the synthetic fur. Today was just slow, slow, slow, slow....but I didn't hate it. I may have even enjoyed it. Sort of. Not the physical aspect so much as the mental. The chance to just let my mind wander and daydream. And what did I think about? Actually, I don't remember exactly. But I do know I thought about writing. And how much I love writing. As much as I love running (well, when I am in shape, that is). And so I am going to keep typing away on the blog. About running. And anything else that pops into my overactive brain.

But I won't ask for money. Fundraising is over.

I should probably re-name the blog "Thoughts in Trainers".

I wonder if I will ache tomorrow.

I am now officially on the wrong side of 40.  Depressing.

My next race is in a gorilla suit. Clearly age hasn't dimished my capacity for self-inflicted humiliation.

On the plus side, no one will be able to see that it is me glumping along at snail speed.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

and we did it!!

One of the purposes of the happy moment challenge was to share out, in an even fashion, the highlights of ones life. By forcing the challengee to see each day as capable of rendering a unique happiness, it seemed, for 100 days anyway, that happy things organized and allotted themselves in a orderly fashion, measuring themselves out in a methodical way. Which of course we all know to be completely and utterly untrue. Happiness, like sadness, can often tumble out in one messy lump, leaving the receiver slightly dazed and overwhelmed. That was certainly what I felt yesterday. The happy moment challenge was over, so events were free to unfold as they did, but still that sense of “this is how it will be today” lingered. Thoughts were only on The Fringe. And watching Lizzie and her schoolmates perform. Perform spectacularly. The word “pride” doesn’t really do the emotion justice. And add to that, all the other shows I had and was going to see. That joy I get from immersing myself in pieces of theatre, especially the grim ones. And so I think I can be forgiven for waking that morning sure of how the happy moments would be revealed; I had a stack of tickets to prove it.  

Then I got the news. News that I had been hoping for since, well August or December or March or whenever I decided to build this library for real. Thanks so an incredibly donation from a friend (a generous and beautiful friend; yes, as I have writtten before, God does give with both hands sometimes) that thermometer reached and then spilled over the £6,000 mark. For a few moments I didn’t know what to feel. I was stunned. And then elated. And then very very very grateful. As I have also written before, this project long stopped being “my library”. It has become “ours.” And by ours, I mean all the people I share my life with, not because I am related to them, though the kids did toss some in some quid, but because they have become part of my life in London, even if they don’t live here themselves. When I look down the donor list I see names of people I have known for a long time, and one I don’t know at all, but is a friend of a friend. I see people I chat to at the school gate and in the coffee shop and at drinks parties. I see people whose children have been in my house and people I know see through the Facebook filter.  I see an amazing cross section of the people I call “friends.” As Carole King so beautifully wrote, “my life has been a tapestry of rich and royal hue…”

And each and every one of these colourful threads put this library together. Yes, I named it after Craig, but I am adding all your names to the wall of honour. Because it is yours too. Thank you, thank you, thank you. From the bottom of my heart. I love you all. xxxx