Every now and again I do one of those geeky calculations around how many hours I have spent commuting or sleeping or running.
According to my Nike+ app, my total miles run since 2009 is 6697 miles and based on my average pace, it means I have spent 1116 hours running and of those, I imagine that for around 80% of that time I will have been running alongside my good friend Alison. That’s over a month of talking.
Fast and slow runners ask how we can run and chat – but that’s the main ‘raison d’ être’ of our running. It is a social occasion and mutual therapy rolled up with exercise and fresh air.
Someone should bottle it and make a fortune!
Given all these minutes we have spent in a moving conversation, we have covered quite a few topics even though there are recurring themes. We have shared and supported each other through some tricky times but mostly we have had a lot of laughs and the comforting ear that friendship brings.
Recently we have been talking quite a bit about the books we are reading and sharing recommendations. We are both fans of crime fiction and have now read the Lin Anderson Rhona Macleod series of novels. I would love to say we have made an insightful critique of the literary merits of the genre – but the truth is we are much more absorbed by the two main characters than the writing or the plot – appreciating their believable and familiar flaws and wondering about the ‘will they /won’t they’? chemistry between them.
Alison belongs to a real book club, but I think our running book club could catch on as it nicely ticks off two life-affirming habits in the space of an hour or so.
Unusually for a Monday morning at 9am, I was queueing to get into BBC’s big tent in Edinburgh to watch the recording of Janice Forsyth’s Radio Scotland show. Was a last minute thing to do when a friend asked me to join her.
Each day the magazine showcases a tiny but eclectic mix of what’s on at Edinburgh Festival and Fringe, and I had no idea who we might see. As it turned out – this ‘chaos of delights’ as described by Janice had a loose theme around ‘finding your voice’ featuring – impressionist Jon Culshaw, a Capella singer Kate Dimbleby, all-round Renaissance man and ball of energy Robin Ince, each providing small snapshot of their shows with a light touch and laughter to start the week.
While I knew both Jon Culshaw and Robin Ince – the beauty of this format is discovering something unheard of. Today for me from the official festival Geoff Sobelle’s theatre piece – Home- described as ‘a spectacle and illusion, choreography, storytelling and music’. Geoff and his musical partner Elvis Perkins talked us through the idea behind Home and shared short musical taster.
More music came from the contrasting styles of Super Furry Animals lead singer Gruff Rhys, and blues band ensemble Blueswater – providing toe-tapping playing, stellar singing and a harmonica virtuoso.
A smorgasbord, an amuse bouche, a carefully portioned taster of just a few of the shows on in Edinburgh at the moment.
Janice Forsyth holds it all together with an easy grace and humour. Would be nice if all Mondays could start this way.
Went out running this morning – earlyish. I could say it was with a spring in my step and vim in my vigour but that would be fake news.
The grey mist and drizzly gloom of yesterday had lifted and the air was fresh ( funny how quickly we wish the hot, hot temperatures would return after only a few days of rain). I was listening to a good podcast – an episode of the Food Programme featuring chef Marcus Samuelsson* The story of his life through food is full of twists and turns and distracted me from my niggly knee and cranky outlook.
As I reached the turning point in this 3-mile run – it’s beyond half way and feels like the home straight- I saw a favourite tree against a background of watery sunlight and blue and white sky. On a summer evening, this is a good place to watch the swifts and house martins swoop and glide.
Today as I ran past the tree, I saw a small feather flutter slowly down from the branches above and running, caught it mid-flight and mid-stride in a rare elegant move.
*BBC R4 Food Programme – Episode with Dan Saladino featuring Marcus Samuelsson ‘Keep it Sticky’
Last week there was a brief Spring sunshine interlude, sandwiched between bouts of wind chill and snow ( in London at least ), so after six months of observing and contemplating – not to mention working out the run/ shower/ workwear logistics – I attempted my first run commute.
It’s not the full commute – as ‘door to door’ the eight-mile distance is a mile or four too far for me to cover before work, even if my understanding of London geography was street perfect which it is not.
Instead, I ran to the station, jumped on an early train then from Paddington, ran through Hyde Park, skirted Green Park gave a nod to Buckingham Palace, through St James’s Park and over and back across the Thames – arriving at Somerset House full of early morning joie de vivre and a just a tiny bit of a smug glow.
It’s a sad admission but I think that come the end of this month I may have read more books in January 2018 than I did in the whole of 2017.
My rediscovery of books has undoubtedly been helped by me having a 4 and half hour commute twice weekly between Edinburgh and London, not to mention a couple of nights in hotels where I am that lone diner trying to perfect the pose of nonchalant reader and eater ( whilst really not reading anything but earwigging on the conversations around me).
Late to the party I was given a Kindle for Christmas, and although I love proper books and everything about them – the paper, the cover, the typography, the smell, the craft, the mystery- my new electronic library has got me ticking off an oft-stated but rarely achieved new year’s resolution to read more, and managing it with aplomb and joy over endurance and forbearance.
Like a child in a sweet shop, I am dangerously addicted to the ‘1- click’ ordering and immediacy of Kindle downloads.
And alongside my newfound love of digital over analogue books, I am slowly mastering the art of vertical reading in close proximity to many others – reading while commuting on the London Underground.
Here the Kindle comes into its own- as even while standing and swaying, I can hold it in one hand and turn pages with the gentlest inflection of my thumb. Rattling through pages as the Central line rattles through London.
I feel so modern
I am not a fast reader but so far my 2018 reading list has included: Ann Cleeves – The Seagull ( crime drama featuring detective Vera Stanhope), Catherine Gray – The unexpected Joy of being sober ( true life account of reformed drinker – uplifting & enjoyable read from the self-help genre), Bernard MacLaverty – Midwinter Break, (poignant and beautifully observed tale of a long marriage).
Now switching between Dr Rangan Chattergee – the 4 Pillar Plan ( prescription for balance and health and importance of relaxation ) and Tina Brown’s the Vanity Fair Diaries ( enjoyable page-turner telling the story of her time as editor of Vanity Fair )
December rattles on a pace as it always does – is it just me or is December the month that goes faster than any other?
Thanks to my new ‘make it up as I go along’ rules for December running – I have, with a wing and prayer, managed to tick off a run every day so far. With my secret weapon of kidology up my sleeve- where I tell myself I will just do 1 mile – that gets me out the door and then once out I usually manage to run a bit further.
After a few years of shoehorning 3 mile runs around dark mornings, party outings, business meetings not to mention two December birthdays, this year I thought rather than give up the challenge completely – it was OK to switch it up a bit and maybe cut myself a bit of slack.
Working in London weekdays – fitting in a 40 minute slot to do 3-miles running and a wash before work is a bit of an effort – and when it takes a further hour to get to the office – the thought of getting up earlier than 6 am to squeeze in a dark run in the suburbs of Ealing is a big ask.
My run dedication is obviously a bit lacking.
That said, running in the dark of December is not the worst, especially as now there are lots of outside lights to cheer you up. Hugely unscientific, but my research indicates that in the past 6 years of running in December – there has been a gradual and wonderful shift in the general vibe of illumination and decoration – collectively we have embraced the joy of the outdoor flicker and exterior decoration.
So here I am- at December 18 – comfortably beyond the halfway point and so far the biggest challenge has been in these past few days when temperatures dropped and pavements turned to ice rinks.
Ice is my big run fear.
Recent runs have been of the stop-start variety – tentatively slithering along the way – peering at pavements for icy patches and tensing up all the time. All said not very enjoyable- save for the uplifting feel of crisp, cold air and strange as it may seem to others – the calming, soothing effect that a cold winter run brings.
Luckily today the temperature was a balmy 6 degrees, the ice had vanished and I did a lovely twilight run for day 18.
I am working in London at the moment mid week, travelling from Edinburgh and this means an early start to get me there on a Monday or Tuesday and a late finish on Thursday.
Knowing I would be in London throughout December is one reason I was a bit tentative about committing to the marcothon – where the challenge rules say 25 minutes or 3 miles running each day of December. I am following the spirit of marcothon , but unlike in other years I am not running 3 miles every single day.
I am enjoying my time working in London but the weekly commute from Edinburgh then the daily commute from where I stay to the office makes for a long day, so to allow me to tick off year 6 of December running I have adapted the challenge to be – run 100 miles in the month and this to include a minimum of 1 mile run each day.
All these daily exercise challenges are somewhat arbitrary – but the underlying theme is about making a commitment to movement – and perhaps recognising how easy it is to kick exercise off the daily menu when you have competing demands on your time.
While my family find my December running habit a bit irritating – I try to reassure them by suggesting how unbearable I might be to live with if I did not exercise – and without the nudge of this challenge, it would be very easy for me to take a day off.
Anyhow – this makes me sound a bit of a swotty herbert on the running front and truth is – last week, in particular, I was more of the class dunce and would very happily have taken a day off when the run ahead was a cold, early morning venture into the dark suburban streets of Ealing.
These midwinter morning or evening runs are the ones that are tough to start but joyous to accomplish.
On Tuesday by way of variety, I ran after work before catching the tube home. This run was a loop along the river from Waterloo Bridge to Vauxhall Bridge with lots of London landmarks to pass by and nighttime lights to enjoy – topped off by Tate Britain’s neon 70s style Christmas decorations.
I had seen this from the other side of the river like a beacon of tackiness, and close up it was quite magical.
A fellow runner stopped to take pictures and we chatted for a bit. One thing I have found pretty much wherever I run is the friendliness of fellow runners. Sometimes this manifests itself as an imperceptible nod in passing – but occasionally you stop and chat and in a few minutes can swiftly exchange run goals /history and race experiences before heading off with a ‘enjoy your run ‘ salutation.
Bit of a cheat as this Day 2 roundup headline says more about what I did after my run rather than tales of daily running – but on this year’s December run streak I am adopting more of a devil may care – new rules for old traditions mindset – so who knows what I might write about next ? 😉
As to the run, with it being a Saturday, it meant day 2 of running was just the regular weekend fixture and at more of a relaxed pace with Alison.
Lots of good chat and observations, including navigating a few detours due to ongoing works along one of our favoured routes. I gave my new running shoes their first outing ( Mizuno Wave 20 bought in Black Friday sale ) – and ‘almost’ managed to avoid the mud. At this time of year, it is pretty nigh impossible to keep my running shoes mud free – but I do try to scamper over the deepest muddiest sections of paths when my shoes still have their shiny newness about them.
After my run, I headed into town wearing another pair of new shoes – lovely gold brogues I had bought on impulse a couple of weeks back.
I stopped off to visit a local craft market – and spotted Santa – as you do.
Santa in Morningside
James Brown tombstone
Greyfriars Kirk Graveyard
Then before hitting the town proper, I wandered into Greyfriars Kirk – historically interesting church and cemetery in Edinburgh and resting place of Auld Jock – Greyfriars Bobby’s master. And it turns out last resting place of many other notable figures some worthy, some unworthy who knows – but certainly names I had heard of.
Despite me living in Edinburgh longer than I have lived anywhere else ( 30 years), like many residents I don’t take as much interest in the local history than I might if I was a visitor.
Harvey Nichols window
Harvey Nichols window
Something else to add to my ‘to do’ list of self-improvement.
Towards the tail end of October, I got caught up in one of my recurring running obsessions – chasing a target mileage for the month . Although October is blessed with 31 days in which to run, come the last week I was ruing my slacker behaviour of the preceding October weeks when I realised how far behind I was in miles covered to date.
But with five days of October remaining, all was not lost. I had covered a fairly respectable 60 + miles so was confident that I would at least manage to reach a total of more miles than previous months 64 and 70 miles respectively.
Although not currently training for anything – I am trying to keep up a decent amount of mileage each month because I don’t seem to be managing to fit in any other exercise at the moment. Is very easy to talk myself out of doing any exercise (even when I know how much better I feel when I do), without some sort of way of being accountable.
And having set off at the beginning of the year with big monthly numbers, I am motivated to keep running and recording miles as I am on track to reach an annual total of 1000 miles by the end of November ( barring injury ) – a whole month earlier than I did in 2017.
So that is a target of sorts.
I know there are lots of naysayers around tracking exercise, league tables, wearable devices and the like – but my view is that on balance, it is mostly a force for good creating as it does for me anyway, a positive reason to keep going when it may seem pointless otherwise.
Runners often have stated and secret goals usually where races are concerned – (aka the backup plan when the shit hits the fan) and so it is for me and my ambitions around exercise – I have a stated start of the month goal and as the month progresses and life intervenes I revert to my back up or secret plan of what will ‘do’ for the month.
Throughout the year my graph of exercise ambition would be a jaggy profile characterised each month by an early peak of optimism usually around the first day and then as the month progresses a few more high spots coinciding mostly with weekend days when post-run, I am filled with euphoria and misplaced waves of invincibility.
The contrasting troughs of run reality and dips in the graph would be plotted next to those weekday work mornings when I opt out of a pre-work run in darkness, trading it for more time under the covers and telling myself that I will just run longer at the weekend.
( if I was not so shit at creating graphs – I would ‘insert diagram here’ – but instead here is a nice pic )
Back to October mileage. For as long as I have been kind of seriously running, and it being my hobby of choice – I have recorded my runs on the Nike+ app. Like other running communities, you can opt to have friends who you share the details of your running achievements with. With Nike+ there is a leaderboard including the stats of your chosen friends – and this provides a degree of competitive edge and encouragement, as I monitor my run chums and their mileage totals.
While it is not really a contest I do check to see where I am in the standing of my own small league and yes I confess I have sometimes gone out running just to get ahead of a Nike+ ‘friend’ and wallow in the warm glow of satisfaction when I am top of the leaderboard.
So come the last week of October – I set myself the first goal of reaching 90 miles -more than the past 2 months and higher than any month since April. Then on Monday 30th I was at 87 and a bit miles so if I ran 5 or 6 miles my 90 mile target would be comfortably achieved, and anything more a bonus.
Monday morning and with a flash of inspiration I realised I could combine the objective of reaching 90 + miles in October with the workaday task of taking clothes back to Zara. So in one swift move combine two of my running loves – ‘running with a purpose’ and ‘running a set number of miles in a month’ – how lovely is that?
As I was running I was thinking about how to achieve one of the following mileage number – 90, 93, 95, 99.
So the run story goes like this – I did the run into town and got myself to Zara and exchanged the clothes – at that point by my calculations I was on track to do 95 miles.
After a meander round Zara – I set off to run far enough for 95 miles then after a run up to Calton Hill and down again and not quite knowing where I was mileage wise – my phone battery died. I just guessed that I was most likely at around 95 miles and that was fine by me.
Once I was on the bus home and had fired up my phone with back up battery – I discovered my Oct mileage total was at 98.4 – so from a happy with 95 miles I saw that a tantalising 1.6 miles would take me to the magic 100 for the month and while I ‘could’ have done this extra bit the day after- I reckoned getting this done and dusted on this day was the better answer.
I got off the bus 3 stops early and ran the remaining distance home – wishing as I often do that I did not live on top of a hill.
Anyhow – my end of Oct total was 100.1 miles. the running was not always pretty but I did it with a day to spare. And thanks as always to my running challengers for spurring me on 🙂
More by accident than by design – I have spent much of September visiting different cities throughout the land, and as is my habit – have taken my running shoes with me on these travels.
I don’t do much by way of proper running on these trips – but fitting in a run is the closest I get to being a collector, or to the satisfaction of ticking off a list, ‘trainspotter-like’.
Yes, I confess I am a runspotter !
With apologies to trainspotters – but I am guessing based on casual observation (given that I do spend a shit load of time at train stations) that you guys & gals like to collect numbers and tick off lists – just as I do by running in different places.
So running somewhere unknown is a good way to get a feel for a place, to satisfy my curiosity and sometimes find the places worth returning to for a proper visit. It is quicker than walking and cheaper than an open-topped bus – and of course, helps to offset the effects of wining and dining excess that often goes with travels.
Alas the weather on most of these runs was not great and skies are often Pantone cool grey 5 with drizzle – but although the photos may look a tad sombre, rest assured I was having a darn good time.
Have been in London quite a bit this month and fitted in a few runs along various stretches of the Thames. London is a nice city to run in with always something to see although it can be hard underfoot. Those golden pavements are tough on my creaky knees.
Sept 24 Inverness
Took a birl round my home town ( city ) to blow away the cobwebs the morning after my sister in law’s very enjoyable 60th birthday party. Was the day of the Loch Ness marathon and I was delighted to not be running a marathon – or any other race, although I did accidentally get caught up in a family fun run.
Sept 26 Belfast
A first proper visit to Belfast for me so managed to get a bit lost despite some good directions from a native. Early morning run taking in some of Belfast’s art trail and checking out some of the very splendid municipal buildings and high spots.
Sept 29 Edinburgh
Not really exploring a new city as Edinburgh is my home turf – I should really make more of an effort to run the sights of Auld Reekie, but sometimes getting back to running on familiar trails makes a comforting change after taking in the tourist spots.