Thursday, 19 May 2011

In the Club

A very well respected and highly accomplished coach from my running club was commenting to me on the modern mind set, where people are likely to presume that information that is charged for, is, in some way more valuable than information that is given away for free. The subject matter was the rise in the number of personal trainers charging for their services. Some may have relevant experience, but many do not. The art of running can sometimes be a complex beast, sometimes not improved by mere text book knowledge, but by experience.

Many of the older generation of athletes rose through the ranks of the British athletic club system and realize their importance, but many of the new generation of runner, seemingly targeted by the monthly running periodicals, such as Runners World et al, seem to have lost that connection. Virtual running clubs, online coaching, and various websites provided by equipment providers offer ways to keep motivated and dish out snippets of advice, but are no match for the knowledge to be gleaned form joining a local club. Our club, as most, is all served by coaches on a purely voluntary basis. The expertise given, aside from a small session fee and yearly club subscription, is all passed on for free. This is not a reflection of the quality of advice, more a reflection of the character of the people who give up countless hours a week, not for financial reward, but for the reward of seeing improvement , both athletic and personal, that involvement in our sport results in.

A lot of beginners tend to regard joining a club as the domain of the superfit. This couldn't be further from the truth. Our club, as most others, have a mix of fast and slow, young and old- but they provide a meeting pot for people who share a passion, regardless of ability. So my advice to any of the new breed- join your local club!

Yesterday was the first of my ' slow races.' This is a reference not to my running pace, but to the overall ethos of racing. Currently having plenty of free time on my hands affords me the priviledge of taking life at a more relaxed pace that normal. Instead of rushing from work, running, then rushing back home again, I wanted to make a simple local race into an event. The first of the Wolds Dash series, hosted by Louth Ac was held last night. This forms part of a 5 race , midweek series over distances from 4.5 to 7 miles. They are the sort of races I love- £3 to enter, low key, basically, but adequately organized, with a field of mainly local club runners. The cycle to Louth is around 22 miles. This took me a couple of hours steady biking and ,as I warmed up for the race, hadn't seemed to take anything out of my legs. My 6th place in the race was my highest placing in a Dash for many a year. After warming down, chatting and having a post race brew, I commenced the ride back in beautiful ,warm summer weather. I eventually made it back to the carabanger at 10.45pm. Altogether I'd been out and about for nearly 8 hours in order to run a £3 race, but the enjoyment of the day was immense. The Slow Life indeed!

Monday, 16 May 2011

Monday Morning Blues

Mondays were always difficult days for me. I'd set off from Skegness on Friday around 6pm and start the 2 hour drive to Barnsley to pick my workmate up. I'd already be tired from a hard week working the markets and venturing to Manchester a couple of times on buying trips. I'd pick up Johnny,then start the 2 hour plus drive down the M1 and M69 to Wellsbourne Market,just south of Coventry. We'd call at the motorway services and stock up on items needed to stay awake- cigarettes and Red Bull normally. Invariably Johnny would be asleep within half an hour of leaving the services, despite his Bonkers cds still being played at full volume. We'd reach the market just before midnight and try and sleep. The back of the van was full, leaving only the cab. Johnny stretched over the passenger seats,while I slept upright behind the steering wheel.

We'd be up at 4a.m, setting the stall up,then work a full day. By the time we'd packed away for the day it'd be between 6 and 7p.m. We,d begin the drive back up north to a patch of wasteground just outside the field where Thorsby sunday market was held,have something to eat,sometimes a beer, then try to sleep again. At the stroke of 4 a.m we'd be up again for another days work. After dropping Johnny off I'd get home for around 9 p.m , stopping at the shop to get a bottle of wine. I looked forward to Sunday nights. Friday and Saturday nights out were never on the radar, so Sunday was my night. I'd make sure I never went to bed without drinking the whole bottle, despite the normal protests from my wife and despite,invariably waking up in the early hours alone on the sofa, with just the TV for company.

Mondays became a day of melancholic moods. Those close to me knew to keep their distance. It was the day when problems seemed larger than before, and although I never worked on Mondays, I rarely enjoyed my one day off.

Things have greatly changed since then. I have an enviable life of leisure now compared to those times. Mondays normally fall into the pattern of just another day. However twice this past month there has been news which has contributed to a revisit of the ill forgotten Monday Blues.

In the age of social networking, a quick morning glance at twitter is normally enough to ascertain what has been happening in the world overnight. Three weeks today I awoke to be greeted by the news of the death of Osama Bin Laden. After spending a few minutes reading messages I was overcome with a sadness that I just couldn't shake. It's not that I was sad over in murder of Bin Laden especially, but the way his death was being glorified. Everyone has beliefs and everyone has the power within to exercise how to see their beliefs are implemented. I always hold dear the hope that change can occur through peace and non violence. Bin Laden choose,in my view, the wrong path. But he was not alone. The major governments in the world,with their involvements over the last few years in Afganistan and Iraq,were equally wrong. The fact that a persons murder could ever be celibrated is a sad indictment of human nature. For the whole day I felt sad.

I awoke this morning in a relatively good mood, but on checking twitter, again saw some sad news which,again filled me with sadness. Sammy Wanjuri, the 2008 olympic marathon champion had been found dead at his home in the Rift valley, Kenya after apparently jumping from his own balcony. I witnessed Sammy at first hand as he won The London Marathon in 2009. That year he won the race in a fraction over 2 hrs 5 mins, and I remember reading a race report in AW where he had berated his pace makers at the half way point of the race to go faster,even though they were already on world record pace. Sammy ran two of the classic marathons in history,firstly overcoming the heat of Bejing in 2008,then winning an epic man on man battle at Chicago in 2010. Running provided him with the financial riches only dreamt of sportsman, but ,as is often the case, wealth, it seems, did little to affect affairs of the heart. There had been reports of domestic conflict between Sammy and his spouse, and early reports would seem to point to this conflict having a part to play in his death.