“What is this life if full of care we have no time to stand and stare ?” – so said WH Davies in his poem Leisure “…. no time to stand beneath the boughs and stare as long as sheep and cows “.
Like Shylock’s soliloquy from Shakespeare’s Julius Ceasar learned in English class aged 15 and many public information films watched regularly in the 70s – these scattered lines are locked nicely in my brain and pop to the surface easily.
The poem Leisure has a simple message with an easy rhythm and while it may not be to everyone’s taste I like it for a couple of reasons. First up it reminds me of my Dad. He was not given to reciting poetry often, but I am pretty sure he introduced me to it quite possibly while out walking the fields. Growing up on a farm I often watched our cows standing and staring and they looked to have the right idea.
And I like the poem because the sentiment resonates with me – as a reminder to remember to take some time everyday to just be.
My memories of my Dad are few and fading, as he died many years ago from cancer when he was only 58 and I was not quite 21. Before that my mother had died from a different cancer, so very young at 38 and long before I was old enough to remember her.
So many of us have an experience of cancer whether through a close family member, a relative or friend. But what I find hopeful is how science and research are progressing in the areas of prevention and cure, so in the space of a generation, a cancer that killed my mother can now be prevented in many cases through vaccination.
And better still, attitudes and support for those who have cancer have got so much better through charities and organisations who exist to provide practical and human support- so far removed from a time of not speaking about the ‘big C’ or other euphemisms around the illness.
Charities like Dimbleby Cancer Care exist to provide the softer care and support for people who have cancer, and they rely on challenges like everydayinmay help to raise much needed funds to help them continue with the support and services they can offer.
Maybe for those of us taking part in this collective challenge it is a way to feel joy in being healthy and alive and having time to stand and stare like those clever cows.
Day 5 4.03 miles
EDIM total 19.9 miles
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I don’t very often run listening to music, as when I am not running with someone and chatting, I just like to keep my ears open and listen to the sounds of the air. It’s one of many things I notice about running, you hear much more – or I do.
But waking at 6am to a noisy wind and rainy sky Monday, I thought some music might be needed. My music choice is limited as I don’t seem to ever get round to updating the handful of playlists on my phone, although when I do these daily running challenges I quite enjoy the repetition of a familiar playlist.
So I know that according to my ‘Edinburgh Half’ playlist – by the time I get to ‘The Hollies – the Air That I breathe’ – I am pretty close to my 3 mile finish, and that when stepping out on a dark frosty morning ‘the Carpenters -Top of the World’ is pretty essential listening.
This helpful ritual only works if you don’t accidentally switch to shuffle – as I did today – and so instead of Karen Carpenter’s upbeat trill ; first up was Dean Owens’ Snowglobe – a very lovely if poignant tune about loneliness and depression at Christmas time and as the title suggests painting a rather wintry vibe, complete with sleigh bells. Swiftly followed by ‘First Aid Kit – Emmylou’ – another favourite of mine but featuring these unseasonal opening lines ‘the bitter winds are coming in and I am already missing the summer …’
Luckily shuffle segued neatly into ‘The Kinks -Sunny afternoon’ – so despite running into a headwind and heavy rain, I could just about believe it was May 2nd.
Day 2 3.17 miles
EDIM total 9.41miles
As the name suggests there is something great about being one of thousands of runners pounding past the capital’s historic landmarks creating a ribbon of gaudy lycra through its historic streets. As city races go – Edinburgh provides an impressive backdrop.
This was the second time I have taken part in this race and as with the Inverness Half earlier in March, I really noticed the difference during the race from losing some weight and improved fitness. On a route that is not short on hills it is very nice to be carrying fewer pounds when pushing up the inclines and aside from the physics – I feel more confident in my running these days.
The route starts and finishes at Holyrood Park with Arthur’s Seat – a popular walk and run route – lumbering behind. Despite it being mid April it was a very chilly morning – with a temperature of around 3 degrees and a biting wind – so waiting for the race start in shorts was somewhat character building.
As I don’t very often race this distance and with only 1 previous attempt I had given my time as 1. 45 – meaning I was in the slowest pen and amongst the last to leave. On a cold race day morning this was maybe not one of my better ideas – but although there was a small delay in starting – the race organisation was good , and runners all got away safely and without too much fuss.
As is often the way on race day – waiting around gets the nerves going and in my case the inevitable – do I need a wee ? The wave I was in set off just after 9.50 and after all the hanging around I was very glad to start running to warm up . It was pretty easy to find space to get past slower runners and looking at my race splits I did the first mile in 8.46 – so a bit faster than my start in Inverness.
The first mile is a loop that takes you back almost to the start and the back of the Palace of Holyrood House ( the Queen’s residence in Scotland ), then on up the first of the many hills as the route follows the Royal Mile before dropping down past Waverley station then a route change to the second hill – straight up Market street to the Mound to rejoin the Royal Mile before heading towards the University area and the Meadows and a chance to gather breath.
The route then does a chicane of sorts after a length of the Meadows to Lauriston place then doubling back along the Cowgate before another longish climb up past the Pleasance heading towards Holyrood park once more.
There is a lovely section from miles 6 – 8 where the race route follows the path of the Innocent Railway to Duddingston village – then a short but nippy hill from Duddingston to the low road beneath Arthur’s Seat. Mile 8 – 9 was a bit tough as we were into a headwind – but the sun was shining by now and the goal was to get to mile 9 and the promised downhill finish.
A short slog to the mile 9 marker and then the end was in sight. This is the only race I have taken part in that has such a long downhill finish and it is certainly very welcome. But even with the downhill run, I could not quite work out exactly where the finish was , although I could hear the PA announcing runners’ arrivals. I kind of mis-timed the very last 1/3 of a mile section as my legs started feeling a bit jellyish after the long downhill – but I still managed a decent sprint finish of sorts to cross the mat with a time of 1.32.35 – a full 8 minute improvement on my previous time for this race.
If last Sunday was all about racing, this week it was all about running . Running the way I like best; no pressure, straight out the door with the sun shining and a good companion.
After what has felt like a very long wet winter, I was happy to be woken early by birds chirrupping outside and daylight with proper sun streaming through the curtains at silly o’clock in the morning.
If only I was a bit more flexible I would have jumped out of bed – and cast the curtains open wide – ‘a la Maria in the Sound of Music’ – but as it was the rarity of a blue sky at 7am had me scampering skittishly and thinking how best to make the most of the day.
Edinburgh is a compact city made up of interconnected villages and skirted by the Pentland Hills, a low range to the west of the city. I live close to a country park at the foot of the Pentlands, and can be in open countryside within a 15 minute brisk walk.
My running companion Alison lives close and our regular route tends to be variations along the Dell – a path running alongside the Water of Leith following the route of a disused suburban railway.
But today with the sun in the sky early and not a breath of wind we decided to take to the hills – and do a circular route that took us from the Dell via the Poets Glen to the country park and skirting two reservoirs.
It was glorious.
Pretty much all the ingredients for a perfect run were there. Sun in the sky,no wind and with an equable temperature. Birds singing and buds emerging. Wild garlic carpets and trees losing their gaunt winter look.
When conditions are like this and there is no time pressure – it makes for a joyful outing. We stopped now and again to take pictures and chatted about topics wide and varied ( but to be fair we do that in all weathers ! )
The air felt clear and fresh and 7 miles passed quickly, leaving us plenty of time to enjoy the rest of Sunday.
Food for the soul 🙂