running feet

running feet
Running feet. These aren't mine.

Monday, 28 March 2011

Still hurting. . .

I got out on Saturday for a jaunt around Bristol Harbourside. It was a gorgeous day, and I enjoyed the sunshine, The best of Cream on my Ipod, and (strangely, given what I've written elsewhere) the dandelions in bloom down the chocolate path. That said I didn't enjoy the actual physical act of running - I think a combination of football on Thursday night, followed by three hours digging on Friday morning caught up with me, and the whole affair was an exercise in wishing for the end. Interesting thoughts were at a premium; hence the short nature of this entry.

Better luck next time.

Running log
Distance: 3 and a bit miles
Pace: 32 minutes - nine and a half minute miles.
Location: Bristol harbourside

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Bad legumes

It was a quick hilly jaunt this lunchtime, and I didn't think about much other than the steady thump, thump of my feet on the tarmac. Something to do with running up hills makes it hard for me to concentrate on much else other than my feet and breathing.

The one thing that was wandering across my mind was a comment I'd read earlier on the Guardian website, which was something along the lines of: 'why do we need mange tout from Kenya in December?'

Now, leaving aside the obvious (and pretty facetious) answer that it's because mange tout don't grow here in December, the underlying logic of the question – based as it is on the premise that the insane merry-go round whereby Africans grow mange-tout as a cash crop in order to earn currency that is then spent on buying. . . food (as well as imported pesticides and fertilisers) is basically a bad thing – is not unreasonable. The thing that makes me wonder though is that, really, the logic should just as well be extended to bananas, or apples in the summer, or coffee or chocolate or citrus fruit. If it's OK to import all these things that we can't grow here, why is there such a backlash against mange-tout, green beans and asparagus? Just what have the African legumes done to people that is so bad?

Running log
Distance: 2miles
Pace: Again didn't time it. I really must dig out my watch
Location: Cotham and St Michael's hill, Bristol

Monday, 21 March 2011

Grand schemes

The weather this weekend was absolutely gorgeous. I think that early Spring days when the sun is shining and it's warm enough to do without a coat (or a jumper) is my favourite kind of weather; something to do with the crispness of the light. It's certainly a great time to run, and yesterday morning I managed to get out onto my favourite short routes - over Vauxhall bridge, up the chocolate path, around the Create centre and the Cumberland basin, through Underfall Yard and back down the harbour to Vauxhall bridge. The fist part of the video below shows the first bit with the chocolate path and the back of the Create centre to give you a sense if you don't know this area of Bristol (though I was coming the other way up the path).

Interestingly (well to me, as it's what I thought about when I ran, and serves as a convenient introduction to the topic) if you watch this video you can hear the cyclists discuss the proposed BRT - the Bristol Rapid Transport scheme hatched by the West of England Partnership (a (from what I can tell) unelected quango made up of representatives from Bristol city council as well as Bath, North Somerset and South Gloucester - sort of like the EU in a minature, cider drinking form without any of the foreign travel or nice food). The idea for the BRT - again as far as I can tell - is to demolish the old railway (that's currently used by a harbour steam train, also visible in the video), pave it over, and start running bendy buses up and down it, in order to replace the Long Ashton park and ride. (Which presumably no-one uses anyway?) The scheme is currently awaiting a funding decision from the department of transport, and given the budget deficit I guess it's moot whether it will go ahead.

You might be able to tell, from this introduction, that I'm not instinctively a fan of the scheme. And it's true, as I rumbled up the path, with the birds singing and the sun shining, I pondered again why anyone would think that sticking an enormous bendy bus through this oasis of calm in the middle of a busy city would be a good thing. Now, it's entirely possible that the case for the BRT is essentially sound, and that my antipathy is fed mainly by a case of NIMBYism. And I can't say I'd go to the wall on this in any case. However, I do wonder whether such a grand scheme is something of a metaphor for the delusion of human beings.

My main objection to the scheme is not to do with the massive environmental disruption, the embedded carbon costs, the pre-existence of a perfectly good park and ride scheme that drivers don't seem to want to use in any case, the disregard for and trashing of a piece of Bristol's heritage or, to be fair, the reduction in my quality of life when Spike Island becomes that little bit less of a nice place to be. What concerns me the most is that the scheme smacks of being a magic bullet, a grand scheme dreamt up by a bunch of middle aged men on a sub-committee of an unelected quango because it sounds 'sexy' (what, a new half train, half tram, half bus hybrid you say? running on tracks some of the way, and the road the rest? and we build a new roadtrack to run it on? and we can call it the West of England Bristol Rapid Transport solution? sign me up. . .), and these rarely end well.

Take the fight against malaria, for (a completely unrelated) example. For years scientists have been searching (and spending biillions of dollars of investment from people like Bill Gates) for a vaccine to protect against malaria. And the search for this magic bullet dominates how we think about 'solving' malaria. Now despite all this work, and money, malaria still kills thousands of children each year. So I was surprised when watching comic relief on Friday night, to discover that deaths from malaria in Africa could be cut in half by the wide-spread adoption of mosquito nets and DIY testing kits. That's right, cut in half, by mosquito nets - the cheap, low tech solution that no gap year student leaves home without. You wonder just how many children could have been saved if Bill Gates spent his billions on a network of African mosquito net factories?

So how about the West of England Partnership does some work on understanding why drivers aren't using the park and ride that's already there (erm, perhaps because it's expensive and you lose the sense of autonomy and control when you submit yourself to transport controlled by someone else?), or using the (beautiful) cycle path that's already there (perhaps the hassle of sticking a bike in your car? perhaps the complete lack of facilities at workplaces to shower or change?), and are content to sit in traffic jams on Anchor and Coronation Road's? And perhaps they should do this before they spend £50 million on a mutant bus that the drivers can stare at across the river at as they continue to sit in those jams.

The problem, I suspect, is that the answers are hard to find, and that changing behaviour requires the kind of persistent, and awkward, hard graft that don't fit well with a politician's (especially a local authority politician's) sense of agency on the world (speak to every employer in Bristol to incentivise the provision of showers and changing facilities, you say? Scope out a secure cycle storage facility at the park and ride and market it to commuters? Introduce a road charging scheme for people turning off the A370 into Bristol at peak hours on a weekday? H'mmm, now where did the plans for that trainobus go. . .). We'll see what happens.

Running log
Distance: 2 miles ish.
Pace: ?? didn't time it, 20 minutes or so
Location: Spike Island, Bristol

Thursday, 17 March 2011

Three miles is a very long way. . .

I like to run, and I like to write. I also like thinking. But I could do all three things more often, hence this blog - to give me something to post I'll have to go for more runs, and in going for more runs I'll have more time to think. So the theory goes at least. In practice we'll see. . .

Anyway, I've always like sport - both watching and playing, but until my thirties I never particularly like running. If you weren't actively trying to chase something spherical, it just hurt, and what's the point in that? This changed when as I hit my thirties - a knee reconstruction meant rehab in order to chase spherical things again, and rehab meant running. Funny enough, once I got over the initial hump I discovered I enjoyed it immensely. Just me, my heart-rate monitor (and sometimes my ipod) and the road. I lost weight, felt good, loved it.

A couple of half marathons in 2008 later came the birth of my second son Theo, and the total body exhaustion that babies bring. Though I kept up the best intentions my running became sporadic at best. So this year it's all going to change, and I'm going to run more. My target is to get round Bristol half marathon in a half decent time at the start of September, and blog about it on the way.

So, that's the back story. And yesterday lunchtime saw the first run of my new, all running, all blogging lifestyle. And to come to the point, what did I think about? Mainly that three miles is an awful long way if you're out of practice.

I actually spent the first five minutes wondering what I should think about in order to blog - not a great start as, like trying to go to sleep, surely the trick is not to think about it and let the thoughts emerge? Fortunately, spontaneous thoughts did emerge - starting with 'wow, this is making my calfs stiff pretty quickly', moving on to 'and now the pain is creeping up to my lower back,' and then moving on to 'yep, I'm regretting that flapjack this morning now'. Two-thirds of the way through I did find some flow and started to think I was enjoying myself, but this was temporary. The final main thought was 'when will it end' and then relief.

I suspect as I get back into regular running I may have a few more runs like this. So this might be shaping up to be a fairly dull blog. Oh well, c'est la vie. . .

Running log
Distance: 3 miles
Pace: ?? didn't time it, probably 25-30 minutes
Location: St Pauls, St Werbergs city farm, Bristol