Sunday, 24 April 2011

Let's Go Fishing For a Dream.

One day, as the high sun set over the mountains of the most sacred kingdom, a ragged messenger crossed the moat and entered the wooden gates to the castle. He was ushered inside, truly and diligently by the Royal servants, until he stood in front of the King himself.

" It is true, Sire. It has been reported that a peasant in the outer reaches has indeed been fishing, and catching dreams, in the Great Lake of Tranquility."

The Kings eyes widened. His Kingdom ruled the world. He had gradually gained more wealth, more power, more possessions than anyone on Earth. He worked hard, suffered no fools, and would stop at nothing to get whatever he wanted. However one thing bothered him. When he finally allowed himself to sleep, he could no longer dream.

The next day the King sent a thousand of his finest men to the Lake of Tranquility.
" Catch me a dream" he ordered.
The men fished all day and caught only fish.

The next day the King doubled his efforts and sent two thousand men to the Lake of Tranquility.
" Catch me a dream" he ordered.
The men fished all day and caught only fish.

The peasant walked to the Lake on the first day to see one thousand men surrounding it. He loved to fish, but more so enjoyed the peace offered by the Lake of Tranquility. He would set up his rod, then relax in the midday sun. He had no money, no possessions, but a wife who loved him. And he had time. Time to enjoy. Time to fish.

After sleeping he would walk back to the village to be asked, " Have you caught anything?"
" No", he would reply. " Only a dream."

The second day the peasant walked to the Lake. He saw double the amount of people there than the day before.
" Nevermind", he thought, "I've plenty of time. I'll come back tomorrow."

He turned around and started the walk back to the village. He smelt the wild garlic growing nearby,listened to the beautiful birdsong. He smiled as his son ran towards him with a huge smile on his face.
" I may not be rich", he thought, " but I'm wealthy."

As he reached his hut he kissed his wife and sat on his front step. The sun still shone brightly. He was tired. He closed his eyes and slowly fell to sleep.

And then he started to dream.

Monday, 18 April 2011

London Marathon 2011

If I'm honest I wasn't particularly looking forward to running the London this year. The weekend jaunt to the Capital with the clubmates is always a great weekend, but in the proceeding weeks I almost wished that I was just going down to spectate, not compete. I had gradually become disillusioned over the last year or so with,what I considered the negative side of running-the high race costs,the charity involvement, the whole commercial side of things. After London I would concentrate on low cost,local,low key running or even cut back on the amount of competitive running I did full stop. That was until yesterday.

I was aiming again for a sub 3 hour performance. My best time ,well only road marathon time was set in last years race at 2hrs 56.30 something. If I bettered that it would be a bonus. I had been putting in lots of miles,the majority of which were slow. The only runs I ever did at sub 8 min mile pace were races. The last race before London was The Friskney Half Marathon which I ran about half a minute slower than last year in 1 hour 24 .14. I was disappointed with this, and thought that maybe a sub 3 performance might even be out of the question. I finished yesterday in 2 hrs 54. 27 - taking about 2 minutes off my best. I managed to run a relatively steady paced run and thought that I might have managed 1 or 2 minutes faster, had it not been for aching thighs from around 8 miles.

I awoke this morning feeling inspired. An event which I considered to sum up the worst aspects of running, has actually given me a buzz I have not felt for a while. In my quest for self I had,all but decided, that the way to go was to escape the mass participation events in favour of the tranquility of the trails. I had penciled in a couple of big trail runs this summer,but,at this moment feel the urge to do things a little faster. I find myself getting excited about the challenge of running a sub 2 hour 50 marathon.

I sometimes get this elitist view on running. Personally I get inspired by people who take things to extremes. However everyone has their own priorities in life, and for most running is just a small part of it. I tend to think of running, not only physically, but spiritually. It defines who I am and provides me with things I desire in life and have failed to find elsewhere. It has power. This morning thousands of people will be going to work, each with their own unique story to tell about their run in The London Marathon. Some will have succeeded,some will have failed, but all will be feeling that power- and that surely is a great thing.

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

The Slow Race Tour 2011

The current financial situation is cutting deep into many peoples pockets. Regardless of which political party is to blame, it does provide an ideal chance for people to step back slightly,reassess their lives and, perhaps change things for the better.

It seems ironic that in times where everyone is conscious of the effects of enviromental abuse, and severely aware of the ever escalating fuel prices and the cost of motoring,that ,in the name of finance, it is public transport that is suffering. Many people I know are, for maybe the first times in their adult lives, realizing the actual cost of motoring and exploring the potential of using public transport as an alternative. It was with great dissappointment, therefore, that I found that the extent to which bus routes operated by our local provider were being cut. I travel from Skegness to Boston at least once a week. Our club training nights on Tuesday finish at 9 pm and the last bus back to Skegness was at 9.45 pm. The last bus has now changed to 6.45 pm. Sunday services,which allowed me to reach Boston in order to connect to club transport for race days have curtailed altogether.

In my present circumstance I am lucky. Taking a prolonged break from work offers me the benefit of time. I can quiet easily cycle the 26 odd miles to Boston with no real hassle, but things would certainly be different if there were constraints on my time. This situation does emphasis the position we place ourselves in in modern day society. We work/play sometimes in places that make us reliant on motorized transport. Instead of moaning about the cost of traveling or the unavailability of transport, maybe we should travel less ,for the main part, and concentrate on working/playing in areas that are either local or accessible by non motorized forms of transport.

It was with this thought in mind that I formulated the plan for my 'Slow Racing Tour'. The Slow Movement is a movement which encompasses many things- Slow Food, Slow Travel, Slow Journalism, Slow Fashion etc and basically advocates a cultural shift towards slowing down lifes pace. It is about living life and experiencing life in a fundamentally different way. It is about connectivity with the land, family and friends -about the valve of time and the importance of its presence in a modern world where urgency, speed and deadlines are king.

I began by identifying several criteria for races to fit the bill. Firstly they all had to be accessible either by walking or biking. This meant that the distance from Skegness could not realistically be much more than 30/40 miles away. Secondly they had to be cheap. I don't want another useless medal or trophy,and have quite enough t-shirts already, thankyou. What I want is cheap entry fees. Thirdly the races had to be somewhere nice. Surrounded by beautiful countryside we are,in Skegness, blessed with plenty of scenic villages which for one day or night a year are the venue for low key road races. The locations would have to have campsites or be remote enough to allow me to get away with a spot of wild camping for either the night before or after the race. It excited me to think that a low key race, with maybe 100 runners, could potentially be turned into a 2 or even 3 day low cost adventure.

The races were easy to find. Several local clubs arrange a summer series of races. The races are all no frills. They have no prizes, consist mainly of local club runners and have an average cost of £3. The Slow Race Tour is about getting back to the basics of running. It is about experiencing very simple pleasures. It is about racing other runners, instead of the clock. It is about helping the grass routes-the local running club,the local pub, the local shop etc. However , most importantly, it is a chance to stick up two fingers to the 'everything needs to be done quickly' crowd and just doing things at my own pace. Slow.

The Slow Race Tour Dates:

The Croxby Crawl Race Series- Wed 4th May 4.4 miles
Wed 1st June 8.8 miles
Wed 6th July 8.8 miles
Wed 3rd August 4.4 miles
Wed 31st August 4.4 miles

The Wolds Dash Series, Hubbards Hills, Louth-

Wed 18th May
Wed 15th June
Wed 13th July
Wed 10th August
Wed 7th September

The Clickem 5 mile series- Wed 11th May
Wed 22nd June
Wed 20th July

Friday, 1 April 2011

The Present

' The secret to health for mind and body is not to morn for the past,worry about the future,or anticipate troubles,but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.'


I have always been a seeker,seeking to find that secret which would lead to that unobtainable nirvana that we all strive towards. Intrinsically I have always known that it was not to be found in many things that people attach importance to in the search. I have never aspired to own the traditional trappings of success,even when working hard and earning good money.I have never owned,or wanted to own a house,have never had vehicles which could be used to display monetary or social status. My fault is more complex-living too much of my life in the past and the future.

Failures,especially in terms of the heart,haunt me-taint my view of the world today.I still harbor grudges from times past and refuse to accept that people/lifes/opinions would have changed. I reminisce with songs,allow them to take me back to times past-both good and bad. The same old songs,the same old artists.

I look to the future. I am a dreamer. I dream of love to be won,races to be run,challenges to conquer-all in the future. At the end of the day I realize that I've spent all day planning and missed out on a beautiful morning full of bird song,a wild winter walk on a stormy beach,a chance encounter with an old friend-the present. I realize that life needs to be lived in the present,accept the past,forget the grudges,allow change and forget about the future. The future can only be shaped by what we do today.

I finished my last job precisely because it robbed me of the present. I enjoyed the company of workmates,but this was not enough to compensate for the tedium that I felt. I found myself wishing away the present ,looking forward to the next break/the end of the day/the end of the week. It became obvious that I could no longer accept this. Life is too brief,too full of wonder and opportunities to wish a vast proportion of it away.

Running allows me to connect with the present. The moments when you are acutely aware of your body,your breathing,the surrounding. Running in fivefingers helps-allows me to be aware of the terrain,to feel the difference even between the different road surfaces-allows me to connect with the present.

Still,with running,it is easy to lose the present. On long gentle runs it is easy to let the mind wander,thinking of events past and future,to miss out on what is happening around you. Indeed the whole competitive aspect of running lends,at least in part, to living in the future. Everyone has times and races they would like to achieve and do well in and therefore look to the future. My goal is simple-to enjoy my running everyday. If there's aspects of training I dislike-intervals or circuits for example, I will think of how I could make them enjoyable,and if I draw a blank,simply not do them. I now place no emphasis on race performances,if I run well-all well and good,if I don't -theres always another. The ironic thing is my performances continue to improve. To forget about the future allows me to forget about races,allows me to disconnect with preformance as a booster to ego.I don't follow any schedule,don't run any set distances or times.I like to run longer and like to run relatively slow-to enjoy the run,enjoy the present.I'll run as my mood on the day takes me.

Tuesday was a case in point. I awoke in the morning to a beautiful, bright spring day. It was precisely the sort of day for spending outside. I wanted to run and wanted to run long. I decided to run the 26 mile seabank marathon course from Skegness to Boston,mainly because I had training that night at Boston with the club and running there ,on such a great day would enjoyable-would make the present enjoyable. I ran 8 miles with the club that night and ,on returning to the banger ,felt shattered. I'm racing our local half marathon this weekend and thoughts went through my head that I may have harmed my chances of running fast.However as the Great God of Sleep reared his head I thought, 'You know what..I've really enjoyed today...I don't care! '