Having the Time of His Life

HAVING THE TIME OF HIS LIFE
by: Mark Darley
Originally published in RUN South Florida – June 2015

Timing is everything !

Timing is everything !


Many of us dream of the day when we can say we truly love what we do. Alan Harding is one of those people. A veteran of the South Florida running circuit, this former workers compensation attorney gave up his occupation to become the owner of Accuchip, one of the leading companies that time local races. What started out as a hobby has grown in 11 years from covering 5 races a year to 130 events of varying length. Over those years first his wife, Susan, and now his two sons have joined to manage and provide the growing business.

What underpins this staggering growth? Talking to Alan, you are immediately struck by the enthusiasm and love for this sport that lies behind his broad, affable smile. His drive has clearly been a major factor. As he says, ‘I get such joy from seeing everyone start and finish, from the fastest elite athlete to the final struggler crossing the line’. For Alan the idea of playing a major part in helping so many people start their day in such a positive fashion is a major contributor to his sense of job satisfaction. He adds, ‘before a race I love trying to predict who the top three male and female finishers will be’. Alan embodies the passion of the sport. From organizing a host of details prior to the race, to the race itself and then the post-race party – he loves it all!

Alan, a self-confessed Air Force Brat, was born in South Carolina although he considers himself to be essentially Floridian as he has lived around the state for the past four decades. In the time leading up to becoming one of the stalwarts of the timing fraternity he was a founding member of what was Coral Springs and Parkland Road Runners Club running 9 marathons, innumerable half marathons and a plethora of other races before giving it all up to start timing races. As he puts it, ‘I always loved the social aspect of running and found I got as much pleasure from timing as I did running’. Recently he started to run again. He even ran a race that his wife timed and he is planning another very soon. He proves the adage, ‘once a runner, always a runner’.

Accuchip like so many success stories had a small beginning. Alan started timing races as a hobby at a point when the race circuit was small but relatively stable. Runners knew what races came around each year and planned their season accordingly. In the last 5 years the number of races has exploded with a consequent demand for timing services. Just keeping up with technology has become one of the greatest challenges and, Alan freely admits, pleasures of the work. No longer do we struggle with awkward ankle tags, frightening written directions or shoe lace chips. The list of advances grows almost daily……………………..including live to web links, mobile links, SMS texting, integrated social media and ever more complex ways of presenting race times, splits and finishing positions to a demanding public.

There is no doubt that timing of races has become critically important to all entrants. This is evidenced by the sweaty throng that surrounds the printed results boards after races. If things don’t go well the frustration among competitors grows which leads Alan to observe that it is critical to have ‘protocols to minimize bad occurrences’. If you don’t he says, ‘The quicksand starts to deepen’. Fortunately such things are rare and Accuchip enjoys a solid reputation for getting races started enabling all runners to go home knowing how they did and where they placed. This allows all and sundry to post on FaceBook, with the increasingly obligatory picture of the results printout, the outcome of one more ‘’day at the races!

Another important aspect of the business for Alan is the sale and renting of timing systems. He originally bought 5 systems from an Australian supplier and now represents them in the United States after they asked him to sell them here. In addition to selling he trains users, repairs the systems, rents them and supplies tags. Clearly, these days, being a race timer is not simply a matter of holding a stop watch and then firing a starting gun. There is, it seems, never a dull moment.

While interviewing Alan I allowed my mind to drift back to the mid 1970’s when I first ventured onto the track at Burford School in England and won the school 400 Meters championship. As I strained every sinew in the final strait, neck and neck with the head boy of the school who was three years older than me and much bigger, I eventually beat him by the thickness of a running vest. One of the teachers was holding a large silver stop watch, he nervously declared me the winner. I still recall seeing him stop the watch with an angular thumb as I crossed the line. Had Alan been there with his computers I would have had the satisfaction of knowing how many hundredths of a second separated us…………..although Alan would surely suggest I would know to the thousandth of a second now. How times have changed.

The running Community is famous for the way we help one another to do the best we can at races. Examples of how faster athletes give up their race to help others trying to achieve a personal mark are legend. In training we advise and coach because we want to see all of us get as much from running as we can. The same is true of the timing community. Yes! There is one. Although competition exists for the right to time races, Alan notes that all the main timing companies talk to each other and share ideas in much the same way runners do. In a world where there is so little value ascribed to communal effort, running can offer a shining example. Talking to Alan, the distinct impression is formed of a generous man, one who shares his experience gladly and who gets pure pleasure from every second he spends perfecting his craft.

Timing is a precise and increasingly detailed enterprise. It feeds our ever expanding lust for information about every second of our lives. We document and photograph details that once were the stuff of memories shared. Now timing technology gives us proof of our efforts in such profusion that is simply overpowers the mind at times. That said, race timing is an activity that quietly sits behind the scenes and gives us all a modern day ‘memory’ that befits the information age we live in.

Race timing is an indispensable and crucial part of the modern race experience. As long as Alan and his family are in the vanguard of this this precious, prized and almost prescient art, seeing us off and welcoming us back, we can go home with smiles on our faces. Happy with our mornings work and ready to face the day.

I, for one, know that makes sense!!!!

Giving back – Mermaids come in all shapes and sizes !

It was her idea !!!!

It was her idea !!!!

Running is not just about running, or so I am finding out. Having spent most of the past 6 years fretting about my training and getting that PR a new horizon has opened up for me. I call it giving back!
While I have not thrown myself fully into assisting with races in all their aspects, I have found myself helping at water stations in two marathon races recently. I have for six months struggled with a knee injury which has cut my running drastically. The roller coaster of training, getting to a level and then having a setback has been hard to endure. The direct consequence of this has been the desire to help out at races just to experience some of the race day atmosphere I am missing.
I am fortunate to be a close friend of the founder of the Mermaid Club, Helena Redshaw who is a fellow Englishperson. Her encouragement got me to turn out early for the Fort Lauderdale A1A marathon and more recently the Coral Springs Half Marathon. Her club was hosting a water station in each of these races. JUst to add a little spice to the proceedings, Helena decided to make me into a ‘real’ Mermaid. Well, she tried. You can judge for yourself in the pictures.

When in Rome!

When in Rome!

At the A1A marathon, I was happily going about my business setting up water cups when Helena announced, ‘’I’ve got a dress for Mark to Wear. A Mermaid Dress”. What does a guy do? In the blinking of an eye I said, rather hastily, ‘’alright then”. At this point the pink and green Mermaid dress was swiftly pulled from the back of her bright banana yellow VW Beetle and thrust in my direction. There was no shortage of volunteers to assist me to step into the rather contour hugging number.
For me, this was an entirely new experience. Honestly guv!! Having never put on a dress as such, I genuinely needed help in understanding how a dress was donned rather than removed. The coterie of assistants pulled and tugged until the garment was in place. Soon its shiny material was snugly caressing my athletic frame. I was, thereby, utterly transformed. I looked gorgeous. Well, that is what a few oxygen deprived runners at mile six of the race said. Opinions to be trusted if you ask me!!!!
As the race passed our station grateful runners variously burst out laughing, tripped in disbelief, whistled, expressed their love for a man in a dress (I learned a lot about certain runners that day!) or demanded a picture with them. The impact was immediate and in some cases permanent in terms of the damage done to some runners psyches.
Did I enjoy the experience? I would be lying to say no. Sometimes we take ourselves a little too seriously. Opportunities to send ourselves up and promote a good cause which, in this case, was the wonderful Mermaid Club which is so brilliantly organized and run by badass mermaid Helena Redshaw, are rare. I took my chance and had a bloody good time.

Will this thing make me look fat!

Will this thing make me look fat!

There !!! That'll do it !

There !!! That’ll do it !

A few weeks later we repeated the whole thing and I shocked a few weary athletes as they hit the 8 mile mark in the Coral Springs Half Marathon. To be handed a much needed drink by a man dressed as a mermaid I am convinced prompted a few PR performances on this cool windy morning. That is my story, I am sticking to it.
Look out for more, bigger and better outings for the world’s most glamorous mermaid. I am sure Helena has plans for upcoming races. For my part, I just hope my knee injury clears up, but then she will make me run as a mermaid and that is a whole different kettle of fish!!!

I guess she knows it makes sense !!!

Check out the Mermaid Club at www.livelifemakewaves.com

A job well done

A job well done

Time to go get a coffee !

Time to go get a coffee !

The Road Less Travelled

The Road Less Travelled

Ready to run Naples Half marathon

Ready to run Naples Half marathon

As an aspiring blogger it is incumbent on me to write something on a regular basis to see if anyone is actually reading my ramblings as well as providing, one hopes, new copy to maintain interest among my reader! I therefore thank Robert Frost for inspiring the title of this piece because this blog has indeed been a ‘road less travelled’ of late.

A swift perusal will quickly appraise that singular reader of one stark fact…………little has happened here since November 2014. Some, of course, will be eternally grateful others will simply be left wondering. For those falling into the latter category here is the remedy – A new Blog post !!!!

Now. The problem presents as to what the subject of my post should be. Let’s be honest, many things have happened since November – prime among which would be my surviving another year on this marvelous product of evolution – the earth! Having got that out of the way and made my simple case for Evolution as the only theory to explain all of this I can move onto more important matters: Running!

Road Trip

Road Trip

There has been some of the latter, though not as much as I would like. Even a race or two has happened interspersed recently by a nagging recurrence of the dreaded knee injury that announced itself fully about three steps after I crossed the finish line at the Naples Half Marathon. This was a race I had wanted to run for a long time. Years in fact! I even pitched into a road trip with members of my club such was my anticipation of a triumphant return to the half marathon world after an absence of two years. Although I was glad to have finished the race, the pain I felt afterwards caused me to doubt the sagacity of my decision to enter. Until, that is, someone thrust a beer into my hand. A little of the uncertainty melted away as the cold container eased the discomfort of a warm and very humid race day. In that brief moment of entropy I was reminded of the reparative qualities of a cold beer.

With some of Los Muchachos Veloces and Peter

With some of Los Muchachos Veloces and Peter

The beer selfie

The beer selfie

Knees. I have often been heard to lament ‘what are they for”. They sit there at the corner of ones legs, bend when required and make this whole running thing possible in so many ways…………….but do they? Well yes they do when they work properly. Sadly my right knee has not signed up to the notion of being fully compliant with my wishes to run long into the latter stages of my life. The runner’s knee that afflicted me at the end of 2013 and prevented me from running a second marathon has flared up again.

A number of stupid race day mistakes combined to rob me of the PR run I had so earnestly worked for in the weeks previous. Training had gone well, I hit most of the targets a coach friend had designed for me and all was set for a sub 1:40 run. I had not planned for the impact of the road trip. While this was fun it did mean that my race prep was not what I had hoped for. A poor excuse I admit, but an inability to pre nourish as I normally do allied to a truly stupid mistake to run the race in my 5K flats set me on a path I HAD travelled and not the one I wanted. That path was two minutes slower than my goal time with all the attendant disappointment.

Having set the scene I am reminded that a note of caution is required here. Why was I disappointed? I had still run a decent time for a first half in two years. It was warm and humid and my knee was not 100%. All in all not a bad outcome one might think. This,therefore, begs the question as to why we run. The reasons are many and varied. Fitness, camaraderie, the challenge and discipline all rank highly in the pantheon of reasoning that causes us to rise early in Florida to train in the equivalent of an outdoor Sauna. One reason has not been mentioned. Racing. Most of us like to race. We like the feeling of knowing we have just done this as quickly as ever or at the very least in our senior running careers.

Now, as I slowly recover from the latest knee mutiny I am left to consider what I have to do to ensure I can continue to run while continuing to enjoy one of the greatest physical pastimes a human can engage in. The reality is such that I have to treat the knee with respect. Recovery is a gradual process where caution is the ruling principle for progress. I know I can run sub 7 minute miles up to 10K if trained. I know I can break 1:40 in a half marathon if training goes well. This said I, in particular, need the weather to be cool and all other factors in my favor if I am to hit my intended goals. This then begs the question of where the fun fits in.

I truly enjoy my Saturday long runs with Northwest Broward Road Runners, my club, and the post exertion socializing at a local coffee venue. Since being hurt I have missed a month of these runs. I am getting withdrawal symptoms. That said, Caution has dictated that I navigate a road less travelled and make small steps back to some sort of fitness. The temptation to enter a race is there, but good sense (usually heard in the less than approving comments of my coaching friend Melissa Hinton) dictates that I start with run/walk exercises after which I can graduate to small runs at a somewhat sedate pace by my standards. I also regulary stretch and attend to the balance in my leg. This includes working on the quads and the hamstrings. In all honest it does seem to be helping.

On the road now travelled I had the good fortune to meet Richard Paradis - a story waiting to be written

On the road now travelled I had the good fortune to meet Richard Paradis – a story waiting to be written

I did cheat a few days back and run 4 miles with one of the miles at under 8 minutes but two days later the knee was stiff and a little swollen. Remedial action meant that I was not set back too far, but a lesson was learned – as if I needed such a thing. This is the dilemma. Tempering our inate desire to run and run fast because we feel good at that moment has to be set against the speed with which the body heals as we age. I am 56 and this body has a lot of miles on the ‘road’ clock and it does not recover as it once did.

Coach Melissa reminds me of this and I am likely to have to give her a nickname, the ‘Inculcator’, because only through repetition of simple principles will she get me to understand the need to recover properly and therefore extend my running life

To not listen will lead to an eventuality I had not considered and to ply a road less travelled and definitely unwanted, that of not running at all.

Slowly but surely I am running with friends again

Slowly but surely I am running with friends again

That is not an option

Thanks Melissa

I know it makes sense !

Honestly !

Roger Waters: Echoes’ of Innovation

Is there anybody in there?

Is there anybody in there?

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Progressive rock is broadly thought to trace its origins back to the late Sixties and early Seventies. Without question Pink Floyd, led ultimately by Roger Waters and David Gilmour, became key standard bearers for the genre culminating in the recording of their seminal albums ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ and ‘Wish You Were Here’.

The roots of ‘Prog’ as it became known can be traced as far back as the release of ‘Meddle’ in 1971 as well as the early work of King Crimson, Genesis and Yes. Meddle, a seminal work in the eyes of many, saw Pink Floyd break into new areas of expression contributing to what was to become, for a few heady years, the dominant musical form in rock.

The evolution of progressive rock saw a more challenging form of experimentation replace psychedelia as the vanguard of art in rock music led as it was by a procession of truly gifted often classically trained musicians. Thus ‘Prog” began to take shape and become what we fondly recall today. Heady and occasionally confused concepts, characters and increasingly long album releases accompanied by ever more extreme cover art characterized Prog’s output up to 1977. Having said this, for those that wanted to be challenged both intellectually and musically this upstart child of the rock revolution fitted the bill perfectly.

Much debate has ensued in recent years as to what progressive rock was or ultimately became. To the purist it is an oddly eccentric style that features complex and lush keyboards complimented by technically demanding and emotional guitar work gathered up in expositions of lofty, sometimes quasi philosophical and political lyrics or story telling. It is also worth noting that bass guitar invariably took a prominent position in the early masterworks exemplified by the work of great players such as Greg Lake, John Wetton, Chris Squire and Mike Rutherford. Each played a major part in redefining how the bass was used in rock music.

Strangely Roger Waters has invariably, even by his own admission, not been included in the ranks of the great bass players in progressive rock. This is a hard assertion to substantiate when his work from ‘Meddle’ onwards is listened to closely. It becomes self evident on closer analysis, notably when listening on state of the art audiophile equipment, just how his economic and beautifully placed bass playing is judged, often to perfection, in the music of Pink Floyd. There never seems to be a note out of place and the phrasing, though often understated, is wonderfully conceived. Was this style deliberate? On considering how Water’s has approached every other aspect of his musical output, it is hard to think that it was anything but deliberate.

The documentary about the making of ‘Dark side of The Moon’ inevitably paid a great deal of attention, understandably, to the sublime and eternally memorable guitar work of David Gilmour. But hold a while ! The bass playing stands out in its own right. It adds something very special to the final work. Recent remixes of DSOM and WYWH have shown that to be especially true. The bass playing stands out prominently in all its immense and enjoyable glory. It forms a carefully crafted foundation upon which the rest of the band wove its timeless songs that defined a generation.

Progressive rock established itself as a globally significant musical force as the seventies advanced though it lost its way with the advent of punk in the late seventies. Punk music questioned grandiose, technically accomplished music and sought to replace it with more direct musical expression that eschewed technical ability for pure raw passion and, it seemed, anger. For many years even the most devoted progressive music fan was hard pressed to find new bands willing to be standard bearers for the music they loved. Progressive rock was almost destroyed by the simple and direct assault of Punk ! Almost !!! A few seeds remained that began to germinate in the late 1990’s.

In the past five to ten years the situation has changed with a host of new bands emerging that loosely fall under the banner of Progressive Rock thus reviving the genre and spreading its influence throughout the world. What had been a strangely English phenomenon for much of its history was taking root notably in Scandinavia and the former Eastern European countries as well as the USA to a smaller degree.

From diverse corners of the world bands have lovingly labored to produce a diverse catalogue with, it seems, something for just about everyone. The term ‘Prog’ has become a catch all casting doubt on what it means in today’s world. Descriptors such as Progressive metal, Symphonic Prog, Folk Prog and the Canterbury Sound vie with obviously main stream progressive music that clearly owes its existence to the great originators King Crimson, Yes, Genesis with Peter Gabriel, ELP, Camel, Van Der Graaf Generator and of course Pink Floyd.

The Waters Legacy

The Wall in all its glory !!!!!!

The Wall in all its glory !!!!!!

Leaving this often fervently argued debate aside there is a clear trend among today’s in progressive scene that pays direct homage to the big three as many see them……King Crimson, Yes and Pink Floyd. The latter, notably referencing what Roger Waters and David Gilmour brought to music, have figured regularly in both tribute band activity and the content of progressive rock albums over the last 15 years. Gilmour’s guitar style is much copied, but the pioneering compositional innovations and story telling techniques of Roger Water’s are strongly represented in many key releases.

Some bands quite unashamedly draw from the style and pace of Pink Floyd at their greatest. Chief among these has been the early work of Porcupine Tree. Stephen Wilson, who has become a latter day Waters of sorts, wrote a series of albums that carried the Floyd tradition forward in a new and exiting way. Suddenly it was cool again to like this wonderfully dramatic and mentally challenging music. Indeed much of the modern Progressive movement owes a debt to Wilson and his tireless work ethic. There was never a hint of plagiarism as Porcupine Tree were always their own band. This has been proven by their later output which itself has seen many imitators of late.

Despite the growing European interest in progressive rock, England undoubtedly still plays a major role in establishing the new wave of ‘proggers’ as they have become known. Though not strictly linked to Floyd in style English bands like Konchordat, Haken, Also Eden, Big Big Train and Karnakata have come to the forefront in recent years.

A Liverpool band, Anathema, morphed from doom laden death metal protagonists into an intropsective and emotional outfit that clearly owed more to Pink Floyd and Roger Waters than Opeth or Paradise Lost. The dreamy, pathos laden soundscapes they create are assuringly original but clearly ‘Floydian’ in style. This change in musical direction dismayed their early fans, but new followers must have been heartily assured that such wonderfully moving music was still possible amid increasingly cynical, product driven times.

Mostly Autumn, who hail from York, are undeniably interesting though they ply a more traditional rock furrow these days. Set against often strong Celtic tones, their guitarist has produced some truly staggering solo guitar playing that would not be out of place in The Wall. Add to this the work of seminal band Arena led by Clive Nolan whose songs are carried along by the technically astounding guitar work of John Mitchell and there is enough angst ridden, dramatic playing with heart rending climaxes to keep a nation of Floyd fans happy until they draw their final breath. The clear influence of The Wall on the writing of these bands proved that Waters in particular had not been forgotten. Now, with renewed interest in and the astounding success of ‘The Wall’ all over the world, it seems absurd to think that forgetting him might even be possible. Both Arena and Mostly Autumn carried Prog through the fallow 1990’s along with such stalwarts as Pendragon, IQ and the previously mentioned Porcupine Tree.

As previously mentioned, Scandinavia has seen tremendously creative artists issue some truly memorable albums in recent years. Carptree, owing more to Peter Hamill and VDGG than Floyd make ingeniously crafted records with some of the most superlative playing heard in recent years. The style owes a great deal to Sondheim in places but there is a clear debt to the narrative style that Waters pioneered in the Wall. Tortured central characters are brought to life through the music in a way that Waters could readily identify with. Each of their albums takes years to make, but when they emerge their dedicated followers treasure each one. They deserve greater exposure.

Sweden is the home of The Flower Kings another group of technically brilliant and prolific musicians. They guest on hundreds of other albums and even have a side project called Karmakanic which is the equal of Carptree in terms of quality. Their style is closer to classic Yes but they cannot be excluded from any discussion of what is going on in progressive music. This said, their classic track ‘Two Blocks from the Edge’ opens in proud Pink Floyd style. It must also be noted that the musicianship and production is everything you might expect from thoughtful, talented and supremely talented Scandinavians. This, of course, is where Pink Floyd and Waters in particular always scored highly……the tradition is thus continued.

In Norway Airbag has been creating waves and are soon to issue their third album. The first two are absolute modern day evocations of ‘Wish You Were Here’ period Pink Floyd. They are both moody, emotional and inspiring classics. There is little doubt that if David Gilmour heard them he would assert that he did not remember recording the solo’s on the albums so close are they to his style. This is not a criticism as the band retains an originality that begs subsequent listenings in a way that many less talented Floyd ‘clones’ do not. This is a truly talented outfit. They have drawn on Waters and Floyd to make new music that keeps the flame alive.

Moving on to Australia where Pink Floyd tribute bands seem to proliferate as rapidly as Kangaroos, there is one group, admittedly based on a Floyd tribute band, that leaves many listeners breathless when first encountering their music. Anubis released an album called ‘The Tower of Silence’ a couple of years ago. Many are attracted in true progressive style by the album art work. This is soon augmented by the quality of the music. The scale and pace of the songwriting clearly evokes influences from classic era Floyd notably in the guitar and keyboard work, though the start of the opening track is very reminiscent of King Crimson too.

Rarely do modern bands pull off the trick of carrying the listener along and then raising them up to a climax as does this band. There is no doubt that a strong Australian influence can be heard in the song structures of Anubis which is to be admired, but the imprint of Roger Waters is clear for all to hear notably in track six, ‘ And I Wait For My World To End’. Their third album due out in 2014 is eagerly anticipated. Although the musical business has undeniably changed with respect to the fortunes of bands such as Anubis there seems little doubt that with the right exposure this band could be huge. They are set to headline a major Progressive festival in Germany in May 2015. It would be a crime to miss them.

One aspect of Roger Waters work that will always be an essential element of great Progressive Rock is that of the narrative based around a central character. Waters tribute to Syd Barrett and the use of Pink’s rise and decline in The Wall as a vehicle for his ideas is a method that has taken firm root in many current offerings. Sean Filkins after he left Big Big Train came out with an album that certainly utilized this approach strongly.

Greater still is the work of Cosmograf, led by the multi talented Robin Armstrong. His album ‘When Age Has Done It’s Duty’ has all the introspection and deeply provoking thought you might expect from Waters at his best. The album takes us on a journey accompanied by music of the highest quality. Waters always seem to put great emphasis on the strength of composition and that message has been well and truly applied here. The songs and bridging passages are consistently enjoyable and worthy of repeated listening. These bands do not achieve the popularity of years past, but Cosmograf are capable of producing modern day classics.

All the hallmarks of classic Water’s are in place in the work of Robin Armstrong. The drama, angst and singular cries of the lonely or isolated man set against the insanity and indifference of the world loom large. Solo voice accompanied by sympathetic acoustic guitar, echo vocals and repeated phrases all vie to remind us of Waters, yet
they are woven into a new musical fabric that makes the listener take notice and listen closely. We reminisce. We applaud the artist for recalling his musical origins. Never once is it apparent that this approach is lacking in originality or derivative. The talent on display is of such a level that it avoids such flippant accusations. There are many examples of less talented bands who mercilessly plagiarize Floyd, Roger Waters and to an even greater extent early Genesis : they deserve no mention here.

Poland is making serious waves in the world of progressive music. Though bands like Riverside have established a distinctive Polish style others such as the Black Noodle Project have unequivocally set themselves up as modern day Floyd influenced artists. The imprint of Roger Waters is very clear on even a cursory listening to their most recent work. ‘Meddle’ comes to mind in many of their tracks.

English band Freedom To Glide have on their recent album ‘Rain’ produced an anti war epic that will be readily compared to The Wall in terms of its message and use of radio, dialogue and sound effects that compliment the music. The composition is smooth and excellently recorded. The playing is accomplished though it lacks the rousing peaks and troughs of The Wall. It is an altogether more sombre work with a superb central metaphor likening the fall of soldiers in war to the fall of rain. I have no doubt that Roger Waters would respect this sentiment as being truly iterative of all he feels about the waste and pointlessness of war and the arms race. It will, of course, never rival The Wall but ‘Rain’ is one of the clearest examples to date of how music can be used to rail against the pointlessness of most wars redolent as it is with Waters style pithy observation and fearless critique !

There is little doubt that progressive music is alive and well. This brief review merely touches the surface of all that is currently being recorded and released. There has been for the past three to four years a specialist publication called – wait for it – ‘Prog’, that is devoted to progressive rock. The magazine plays a central role in enabling those with a thirst for the music to keep on finding succor for their obsession. I will aim to update this part of my blog as more bands recalling the greatness of Waters and Gilmour are discovered.

Unquestionably one of the most critical influences on the musical rebirth of progressive rock music, notably with the more thoughtful works produced, is the work of Roger Waters. Echoes of innovation live on.

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The Final London performance of The Wall

The Final London performance of The Wall

Meeting Dave Kilminster who played on the wall and is a current leading light in modern Prog !!!

Meeting Dave Kilminster who played on the wall and is a current leading light in modern Prog !!!

Snowy White and ...............?

Snowy White and ……………?

Finally ! It’s cool to be a runner again !!!

Los Fast Boys, Diva, Lauren and I !!!!

Los Fast Boys, Diva, Lauren and I !!!!

It has been a breath defying summer. Humidity that would grace the finest Finnish Sauna has been our constant companion these past months. In the midst of this Britrunner, yours truly, has struggled to maintain anything like a decent level of training. Frankly, the steamy hot months almost left me questioning my love of running……….something I could never have considered possible in years past. I have commented more than a few times here that, for me, 80 degree heat and more simply does not work ! Those born in the swampy sub tropical environs of South Florida seem to rather like it, but this northern European soul with more than dash of nordic genetics making up his existence is not built for it.Not in the slightest.

So, I was bolstered these past two weeks by temperatures in the low 50’s for a 5K race in Boca Raton and more recently a tolerable 68 degrees in Parkland, although humidity at 88% seemed to be indicative of a last stand before cooler fall and winter air chased it away.

This last Saturday for instance we were greeted by 68 degree weather, a clear fresh morning and a glorious silver disc of a moon smiling in the most welcoming way. My running light struggled against the lunar wash that bathed the road ahead. Even the lights adorning some of my fellow runners caps, lights that resembled the ‘full on’ beams of pickup trucks could not detract from the beauty of the scene that accompanied us on this outing. All was well in our running world.

To add to the pleasure of the morning we were complemented by returning heroes from last weeks Ironman Florida. I was, it seemed, surrounded by more iron than the trans Siberian rail road. Such elevated company saw me pick up the pace as I forgot where I was for a few miles. Thankfully one of my more sensible club mates caught us and threw a blanket of good old fashioned sense over the proceedings. The pace was ameliorated to a more sensible 8-8:10 per mile. I was thus able to return to my intended pace as a means of ensuring I did not do any dmage to a still fragile knee. I hope to run a couple of half marathons this year and that could all be in jeopardy by doing something stupid at this point !

Los Fast boys as I will now affectionately dub my Central and South American freinds, were allowed to run on. Btw guys I’m still waiting for the Spanish translation of ‘fast boys’ !!!!. It cannot be that difficult to conjure up an appropriate monicker for such a fine collection of runners and triathletes.

Bill, my club mate, and I ran the remainder of the 10 miles together and, I’m pleased to say, came up with a workable plan for world peace and a also good approach to getting race ready in the midst of the conversation we shared. It is amazing the things that runners discuss when on a long trek together………maybe I will have to pen a blog post on that very subject !!!!

In the final analysis it was gratifying to get a great run in now that the weather has cooled down. If I want a sauna I’ll go to the aforementioned Finland. For now I will run around Parkland in cooler air and be thankful for it !!

Until next time I can only say………….. Be healthy. Run well. Enjoy. Cooler weather is here.

You know it makes sense.

Recent Roads and Those recalled: Running, the ‘tough love’!

Recent Roads and Those recalled: Running, the ‘tough love’!

Running on Wimbledon Common !

Running on Wimbledon Common !

The Oldest runnning club in the world

The Oldest runnning club in the world

The path back to respectability as a runner is not an easy one. I discovered this as I have found it increasingly hard to motivate myself for long runs in particular as this smothering summer heat continues unabated. Morning short runs have ceased due to the pressures of a new job and evening runs hinge largely on whether the heat drops below 90 degrees and there is some decent cloud cover. Of course, cloud cover in Florida invariably prefaces storms, dazzling lightning shows and heavy rain!!!

I often find myself telling people that I live in Florida partly because I like the fact we can run all year round. This is essentially true, but whether we can run well is a point that promotes much discussion at my South Florida running club – this year more so, it seems. While I have no doubt that the science supporting climate change is real, there certainly seems to be much local anecdotal evidence that the earth is getting warmer, at least when I am out running !!!!!

All of this has left me sometimes to recall with fondness the days when I ran in London and the Sussex South Downs hills before my eventual emigration to the United States in 2003.

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When I lived in England I thought nothing of adding leggings and a second layer to my attire, donning gloves and heading out for a cross country trek over Wimbledon Common and Richmond Park where Henry VIII once famously hunted. In winter the perennial heathland puddles froze over and farm tracks hardened into ankle turning ridges. Not to worry. We simply took care and got on with it. On days when it was so cold that five lungs full of air would preserve them for all of eternity we stayed inside and drank fine ales at the 17th century inn near my apartment.

This ‘training’ method seemed to work and was warmly supported by all and sundry within the club, although I secretly suspected that some hard nosed individuals actually took their training seriously and ran in all weathers. We, the rank and file, of course drank their health, told stories alongside high piled log fires built in Jacobian hearths and looked forward to their exploits in the upcoming Olympics. Yes. We had Olympians. Shady characters with medals, silly PR’S and no evident desire to support the local brewing trade at all!!!!! We were drinkers with a running problem it seems. The Wimbledon chapter of this worldwide phenomenon no less.

We competed only sparsely and ran on clement days, an occurrence not always guaranteed. November afternoons of grey, bone leaching drizzle were enough to deter all but the most intrepid aspiring racer, but as we were not really training for anything in particular it was ok to take a day off and head to the pub. My club, Belgrave Harriers, one of the oldest in the world condoned such attitudes. It was ok to run for fun and race from time to time. I wonder sometimes if this is still the case, especially when I see the times posted in the Park Series 5 K races wherein the first 50 runners all come in under 18 minutes. Times are changing my friend when the English seem to give a damn! Do they actually train now, I muse?

On those dull, cold Saturday afternoons when we got back to our clubhouse, an old Victorian building with meeting rooms, basic changing facilities and communal showers with, of course, a place for making tea we would slowly wait for the sensation to return to our hands and feet while our noses indicated a semblance of function by starting to run again. This was where the cotton gloves we often wore came in useful or better still that long sleeve of the light rugby shirt worn for the run with the club vest on top of it. Mr Hen would walk round shaking a wooden box fixed to a flat wooden handle as we stiffly moved our fragile, chilled limbs and changed. As he passed each of us we would rather unskillfully drop a few coins in though the slot on top of the box. A collection for club funds was the purpose of these grubby pennies and shillings gladly proffered. Ah happy days. You see, we knew no better!

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Naturally, there were warm days. As I recall we had about seven of these in any given year. They were to be enjoyed and talked about in the months when the darkness gathered more tightly than eager runners clumped together on the start line ready for an autumnal 5K.

The starting line !!!

The starting line !!!

Then I moved to Florida……………………………………………

More Humidity please !!!!

More Humidity please !!!!

Things changed when I joined my first running club here. A Fort Lauderdale outfit that actually sponsored and held races. I had lost a fair amount of weight in recent months and was in much better shape. What a brilliant idea it might be to see how fast I could run these races. It was tough at first because I lacked fitness and I was totally bamboozled by this warm air that seemed to follow me everywhere. Consider that I had never started a run before 10AM in England and then imagine my surprise at lining up for a race At 6:30AM in the dark. This is the Florida way.

Indeed, I have to remember to tell any English friends that come here looking forward to a race that things kick off in the earliest hours or they will pitch up when the age group awards are being given to the over 60’s or just as the last of us has headed home!!!

Things are taken a lot more seriously here in Florida. People talk of regular races, their progressive improvement of times and all they are doing to be better still. If you were unaware of it at the start you soon become familiar with the extent of your competitive spirit by joining a club in Florida. No matter what your age or ability there seems to be something other than humidity in the air. It is the inescapable joy of being outside, in the warm weather, by the ocean and alive!! Welcome to Florida running at its best though beware the dog days of summer training !!!! They sap the strength and flatten the will, but we plod on in soaked, squishing running shoes because we know that soon the balmy days will return.  

I have written before about how best to handle the hot weather and humidity, but have only touched on how demotivating this can be. Carrying a persistent nagging injury doesn’t help, but we are runners and we famously press on through the aches and pains because that is what we do!! Right? We run! That said, the almost sauna like characteristics of the atmosphere and its lung soaking humidity seem to strip the last vestiges of pleasure from long runs in particular.

As September advances many of us are heard to plead both publicly and privately ‘when will it end, when will the cool weather return?’ Of course, by ‘cool’ we Florida based runners mean anything close to or under 70 degrees. To us that is a winter blast, though personally I would welcome anything in the 50’s, a temperature that sends my fellow Floridian athletes scurrying for the closet in search of that long sleeve running vest that we know is in there somewhere. Color is not important nor style, so long as it protects them from the imaginary frosts they believe lie in wait for them.

Florida living softens the soul and thins the blood many say and the array of warm swaddling clothing suddenly adorned in these parts when more temperate weather settles on our roads bears clear testament to this.

Even when it is cooler the time hardened habit of convening before the dawn remains for many of us. Perish the thought that we might get up an hour later just because it is cooler. Arising at such silent hours is all part of the ritual of being a runner. A Florida runner. You see it’s hard, running, and not for the faint hearted. Apparently.

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In Florida it gets very HOT !!!!

In Florida it gets very HOT !!!!

Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.

You can’t run forever !!!!!

All that was left after 'The Challenge '

All that was left after ‘The Challenge ‘

There are those who steadfastly refuse to participate in what they see to be a ‘fad’. I have had this said to me. The ALS ‘ice bucket’ Challenge seems to be sweeping the nation and has spread well beyond these shores. A recent Skype conversation with my parents in England was suddenly halted by my 76 year old father asking : what this ‘ice thing’ was all about? It seems that many celebrities and sports stars are doing it there. I quickly recounted the origins of the phenomenon and suggested that my father would be better off avoiding it ! Frail health does not augur well for him with respect to sitting under an ice shower.

Having done what every good son does in bringing Dad right up to date, I noted in my mind that I had not told him of the challenge meeted out to me which, to date, I had not responded to. You can run, it seems, but you cannot hide ! I had feigned a flight to Greenland to escape the wash of the ice and I had quietly acknowledged each passing day with no on enoticing…….until Jim Dunn issued a SECOND challenge. My goose was cooked and it was time to get ready for the chill !

The logistics of the challenge can be bewildering and, in some cases, harmful. As I pondered how I might respond without help I was reminded of the perils of the challenge through Facebook. The best failures and mishaps have been posted widely. The dangers of getting a relative, usually inatentive and incompetent, to stand above you on the deck in readiness as you utter your pre prepared lines and then challenge others are immense. Many a challenger has been hit by coolers crammed with ice suggesting that cranial decompression and a few days in ICU would be the price they pay. Surely donating would have been easier !!!!

Then there is the vexed matter of those that really do not try too hard !! I have seen a few tuppaware lunch boxes filled with tepid water supporting a couple of lonely ice cubes. I thought they were going to drink the water but no, they doused themselves and then feigned frigid surprise. Really !! There is a reason people go to acting school. Convincing performances being one of them ! I think people mounting such a tepid resonse to the challenge should be subjected to a publically arranged ice dousing so as to assure them of the fun they missed by being so pathetic ! Then there was Sarah Palin who put two ice cibes in some Dr Pepper ( probably laced with booze as is her apparent bent these days) and drank it. Thankfully the staff at her TV channel hit her hard at the end of the video thus priving once and for all what a fake she is !!! ha ha !

But what of me? How was I going to video the proceedings? Most of the people I knew were busy and not able to assist. I pondered ways in which I could balance my iPhone on a chair and set it to record. It might be quite funny to see me do this, scurry to the spot marked with an X on the ground, say my lines and then unleash the ice on a well warned dome! But, what if I missed? What if the ice came out in one great lump? Missing my follicly challenged head would be the worst outcome of all. I would then have had to scamper around my yard collecting up the raidly melting ice ready to record take #2. THat was NOT an option clearly !

All these possibilites cascaded into my mind leaving me to contend that maybe this could become a sort of response wherein I video my evident difficulties with the logistics of the whole dreaded perforance. I soon discounted this when I thought of the approbrium and abuse I might get for being so lame.

So it was that a friend, Jum Dunn came to my rescue !! Noticing that I had not picked up the original challenge from Helena Redshaw, citing as i did the technical difficulties I faced, Jim challenged me a second time. Immediately a quote from Ocar Wilde came to mind as I paraphrased Lady Bracknell in thinking …………’to avoid one icebucket challenge is a misfortune but to avoid two challenges looks like carelessness’. I was cornered. I had not choice but to plan my compliance with the challenge. Fortunatley the prospect of a Saturday long run loomed large on my calendar and Jim in his challenge suggested that this might be the perfect time and place to do it !! I had my ice ready along with a small cooler. The die was cast.

The rest, they say, is history. I did what was expected of me and all I can say is that we should all have an ice water shower at the end of a long run. I highly recommend it !!

A job well done !

A job well done !

I had Complied and issued my own challenges.

Fad it might be, but it is all in a good cause. Many of us had a bit of fun. I wonder what will grip the nation across the social media next. I shudder to think !!!!!

Another hot one in the steam bath that is Florida !!!!!!

It’s bloody hot. It’s bloody humid and about 50 of us from Northwest Broward Road Runners pitched up today to run in this weather. There’s your definition of insanity for you.
Today I was pleased to have my English friend Stephen Scott joining me on the run. When I woke him up at 4:20 he asked ‘what time is it?’ I replied ‘4:20′ to which he responded :
‘4:20!!!! I normally get up that early to go on my holidays ( vacation) !!!!’ You can’t beat that Yorkshire humour, can you ?
Having discussed this eventuality at some length we set off to join the athletically insane folk that comprise my running club.
As I got ready to start I saw the powerful frame of Joe Gonzalez emerge from the dark. I thought ‘oh no! He’d promised me he wasn’t running’. Thankfully he wasn’t as i had planned a more leisurely run this week. I thought it was impressive to wear his club running gear just to put out a water stop for the club. That’s professionalism for you that!
A hot steamy run ensued with banks of fog lying across scary road (as we call it) making it REALLY scary…..well maybe a little bit anyway!!! You have to get with the general flow here. Banks of runners complimented the scene. They ran along the road all lit up like a gigantic crawling Christmas tree stretching out a little in front and a long way behind me.
Then a ‘mellifluous’ and intermittant stream of loudly expressed vocal notes caressed, well invaded, my ear after we turned to head back to Hinton Waters, the lovely cool water stop that the good folk of the Hinton household put out for the club every week. As i ran further on the form of Sandi Weisenfeld Oscar slowly and eerily materialzed out of the fog. There she was, blissfully alone, belting out the first three words of a song she vaguely recalled. Happy as a happy person celebrating happy week could be. I asked Andrew Oscar who was running along side me what she was singing and he didn’t know either. But she was happy.
It was nice to be joined by Lisa Getlen Callahan who now has to rename her company bilife as she used up a life saving herself from a delicate trip. One of the Great saves was witnessed as she used all her athletic prowess to regain her poise. Spectacular in the extreme but Trilife is now Bilife. Lol. Sorry Lisa. Couldn’t resist that.
Another steamy 10 miles in the books I can now spend the rest of the day recovering……..for that is the lot of the runner newly admitted to the 55-59 age group who insits on training in Florida where heat is never enough. WE have to have humidity of 90% and above for months in the summer. lovely !!!!!

Heat Hubris and humidity !!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Feeling like we have just fallen in a river !

Feeling like we have just fallen in a river !

For most the advent of summer signals vacation, great weather and firing up the grill. While much of this is done in South Florida there is the additional factor of humidity to throw in to the mix. For several months the outdoors in South Florida feels like a massive sauna as skin dripping humidity, often in the mid to high nineties, soaks us thoroughly if we dare to even move a few steps. I have often wondered why more Finnish people do not live here because their love of Sauna would be naturally provided though we might struggle to find them a frozen lake to flop into unless they own a meat cooler or a restaurant with a big fridge. Just a thought!!

Of course, the lot of the runner is such that we have to maintain our training in this heat and humidity even if it just a matter of maintaining a base. The really lucky ones get to prepare for fall marathons as they work up to running sweltering 20 milers!!!  This is no easy task as our drenched running clothes and perennially soaked shoes demonstrate. How many of us leave shoes by a sunny window or stuff them with newspaper (or old screwed up printed emails if you can’t find a newspaper such is the march of modernity) in an attempt to have them ready and dry for the next run. I do the sun trick. My cat knows it too as one of her best sun stretching spots has been invaded by a pair of malodorous Nike’s.

How do you approach these high temperatures and humidity?  With humility or hubris??? I have to confess that I have been one of those who thinks it is a good idea to throw in some fast paced miles even on long runs. Something my run concussed brain tells me that I’m toughening myself up for race days when the temperatures are lower. But, not so fast young man (I can fantasize!!!!).

A recent article from a major running publication posted on Facebook by my friend, and certified coach, Melissa Hinton suggests that we need to approach this Floridian summer weather with more caution. Naturally a runner’s genetics and underlying fitness are going to influence how they feel, but there is little doubt that making allowances for increased temperatures and humidity is a wise thing to do.

Below is my take on the major points raised in the article. Essentially there are 5 things a runner can do to enable them to cope better with the brutal conditions encountered in the South Florida summer :

1)    Slow down!! Shock horror!!

This is not easy. I know as I have been guilty of not doing this. I recall one run where the temperature was around 92 degrees. I set out at a decent clip winding up to 8:11 pace by mile three at which point I had the really bright idea of throwing in a sub 8 minute mile. I clocked 7:35 and felt very proud of myself. All I had left to do was run the last two miles and another fine run would be in the books. Ha! Was I mistaken!!! I literally crawled the last two miles as my body started to shut down. By mile six I was almost walking at around 9:45 pace, gasping for air and desperate for water. I felt as though I was melting and breathing air directly from a hairdresser’s blow dryer!!!!

The moral here is to hold it back a bit on really hot days. Even if you run early or as the sun is setting, the temperature in South Florida is regularly above 80 degrees. The experts suggest cutting at least 5 to 15 seconds a mile off you pace for each 10 degrees over 50 degrees Fahrenheit. So, if your average training pace is 8:15 a mile an adjusted pace of around 8:45 would make more sense if the temperature is in the 80’s. As tough as this sounds to the hardened runners mind the benefit will surely be felt in the final third of the run. On my long runs recently I have been tempted to run with a fast group and mile 3 – 7 have been run at an average of 7:30 pace. Hubris to the fore I stride out with them only to run out of steam, literally, as we hit mile 8 after which I crawl home. In the main the others are younger, fitter and faster than me, but there is no benefit to hitting near racing pace on long runs anyway and doing it in really high temperatures makes even less sense. On the three occasions I have done this recently it has taken me the best part of the rest of the day to recover. So slow down !!!!!

2)    Avoid the sun………….duh !!!

Yes. Another shocker !!! How often do I see people plodding along the canal sidewalk near my house at 1PM in the full glare of the sun? Too often is the answer. I ran one race this year which started at 8AM and I can say it was an additional stress factor to run at full pelt on a mostly sun drenched route. Don’t do it. I am not a mad dog, but I am an Englishman and I will ALWAYS avoid the midday sun!!! It’s simple really : Run in the morning in Florida to avoid the hot glare of the sun and try to wear a cap or visor if the sun is up. It makes a lot of sense.

3)    Drink in response to your thirst……….interesting !

I am fortunate to be a member of a club that puts out water stops at strategic points along the main running routes of its Saturday long run. I NEVER miss a water stop on a long run. Although I do not guzzle down gallons, I do slake my thirst and where necessary use a ‘Goo’ or ‘Shotbloc’ to replace some of the electrolytes I lose through sweating. This seems to work and by taking on the right amount of fluid I ensure that I do not set off again with a stomach full of fluid that is trying to reemerge at any point!!!! Running with a protesting stomach is never easy.

Apparently the Australians, who else, have figured out that running with a little dehydration is a good thing. I can add to this that not trying to throw up is a good thing too which leads me to be in the rare position of agreeing with Australians. You see. Running opens us up to all manner of possibilities and outcomes !!!!

One final point on hydration relates to replacing electrolytes. Thankfully we have moved on from Roman technology of salt pills which I do not recommend unless you are running an ultra ( and even then you need to be careful) but I do recommend either gatorade, especially if your club puts it out on long runs. If this is not available take some of the electrolyte chews that now crowd the market. They need to be taken with a couple of cups of water, but they make a huge difference. Drinking water alone will not replace important electrolytes. As the weather becomes hotter is is important to get sodium, potassium and even magnesium into the body to avoid problems. Get some chews now !

4)    Sweat and sweat again……yes even you ladies !!!!

Sweating is a good thing. Lets face it, there is little glamor in what we do. We look our bedraggled worst at the end of runs, we have sweat stains in all manner of ungainly places and in this hot weather we all look as though we have been dragged through a lake. Clearly sweating is good for us. Sweating is how the body cools itself. The wicking materials found in most running clothes these days help us to sweat. I cannot imagine anyone running in cotton these days, but if you do – STOP IT NOW !!!! You are not helping yourself. Even though my shirt can usually produce a jug full of water when I take it off after a run, I now realize that this is an indication of how my body has sweated and thereby cooled itself. It is not pleasant but it is necessary. One word of caution. If your body stops sweating and you feel chilled, it is time to stop and get some fluids quickly. The whole point of drinking, especially on long runs is to keep the body sweating. It is sane to sweat !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

5)    Get naked……..within reason !!!!

And now to the fun part. What to wear or not to wear. In addition to effective materials it is not a bad idea to expose some skin. Clearly naked is not good in many cases and even where it would be heartily applauded by fellow runners it is not advised. This is not Germany and the police would take a dim view of naked runners even if they did carry adequate lighting in the early hours of the morning. This said, I have always been an advocate of running as unencumbered as you can especially when it is really howt. A running vest, shorts and socks is plenty in the apparel department unless you like to wear a cap. As for the other paraphernalia please read my article called ‘Naked Running’ on my blog from a few months ago – I take a humorous look at all the stuff peole wear when they run. Its on britrunner.com

Wearing sweat suits and layers of clothes will make you lose weight until you replace it by drinking, though it can also push you dangerously close to overheating and getting seriously dehydrated with the consequent effect of inducing heatstroke which is far from pleasant!!!!! I ahve seen people doing this and I just want to stop them and say : stop it !!!

That is about it. Practical advice and of the sort I am very happy to state because when I thought about it I realized I had to slow down in the heat. In this way I can better enjoy my run, recover more quickly and gain maximum benefit. Now all I have to do is apply the learning when I run on a Saturday and not let my male hubris get the better of me as I chase after the fast boys. I hope you do the same

Happy training and good luck in the races you prepare for in this maddening and decidedly uncomfortable heat !!!!

Have it !!!

britrunner

Banishing The Inner Runners Voice…………………..

Team Running Wild Celebrating Progress

Team Running Wild
Celebrating Progress

Recently a member of my racing team, Danielle Kleppan, sent me a link to, in this case, the wise words of the elite runner Ryan Hall. I will share these words later, but the fact that she cared enough to post the link on Facebook spoke volumes about why running is so elevating to the spirit.

She may not know it ( yet!!!) but that simple act meant so much to me as I slowly make my return back to some sort of decent form as a racer. The sharing of advice, experience and hope borne of a genuine desire to see each of us improve and gain satisfaction from what we do marks running out as almost unique among the sporting activities that people of all ages, sizes, pace and gender can immerse themselves in. I say this often, but running is a community – one that embraces the spirit and fends off the craziness of the world for a few precious hours a week.

Incidentally, I recalled seeing Ryan Hall give a presentation at the Houston Marathon Expo. He imparted all manner of practically useful tips and hints to those of us gathered to listen to him that day. Truthfully, 98% of those rapt by his words would never experience a sub 5 minute mile and certainly not in a marathon, but this did not dull the applicability of what he said that day. Listening to the great runners can benefit us all. So. More of his words later.

Running is a curious beast when all is said and done. We train hard often running at crazy hours of the day, sweating our guts out, exhausting every last ounce of our energy all in the hope that we can express ourselves well on race day. We can be hard taskmasters if we do not run well, or more importantly, it seems, satisfy the fragility of the inner runner’s ego, that less than silent voice that nags at us as we try to reclaim former capabilties or get better still. In response to this ‘inner voice’ the litany of reasons as to why we did not do as well as we had hoped in a race are often recited in the post race ‘analysis’ that we all revel in. Runners certainy love to talk about running. We either celebrate or commiserate.

Sometimes an expression of apparent satisfaction with a race can be couched in such terms that the listener will say ‘don’t be so hard on yourself, you had a good race’. Such a sentiment was expressed to me last Sunday more than once. I was surprised as I did not think I was being negative but it may have come across that way or at best as not recognising what was good about the run. It seemed I was being received that way. I had run a season PR and while it was a warm day ( 80 degrees), a late start for a Florida race and a demanding course that included two large river bridges I may have given a misleading impression. Inside I was heartily satisfied with the run. Or so i thought……………….

As for the race. I had run a quick first mile, there was no vestige of the aches and pains I had felt all week after a really hard track session. The cadence and motion, for me , was smooth and I was passing people. I was still struggling to kick myslef into the zone of discomfort that I had felt for my PR races, but I was cruising well. Mile two, as ever, was a bit slack and then the third mile was quick again. In this race I felt the ability to maintian a pace but there was none of the old kick. That would have to wait for another day !

My season PR was only three seconds better than the previous week run on a flat course and a cooler day but it was, none the less, a season PR. I thought, as I crossed the line, ‘I’ll take it!!!’ I really was happy. But my inner runner, the one trying to get out again, seemed to have commandeered the microphone. The innner runner was broadcasting to anyone interested, or not in some instances, vaguely egotistical rants that really said more about why it was such a ‘bugger’ not to be running like I did last season than being satisfied with what I had just done. I thought my words were those of a happy runner, but the iner runner prevailed and muddied the waters.

Then came what might sound like excuses. Why excuses? Well. The fact is that I ran only a year or so earlier a minute and a quarter quicker : 20:18 to be precise. This year I had battled back from an injury layoff and in the light of advice from so many running friends I had limited my miles and rested where in the past I would have run just to get my miles in. On the back of 12-15 miles a week I ought to be very happy, particularly at my age. But that inner voice, perched on my shoulder at this point, no doubt to ensure being noticed, was the one that people were hearing. ‘It was a tough race’, ‘it was hot’, ‘I was not doing the hard miles’ etc, etc. The reality was that I had once again made real progress in a race. With that little devil of a voice sitting on a runners shoulder it can appear as though former results are a thousand miles away. In actuality they are not, they happened in a different time and under different circumstances. As many of my friends say : it is important to run in ‘the now’ and celebrate each good run for what it is. Many of my freinds said that this past Sunday and I was ultimately grateful for their well intentioned words. They gave me a better perspective.

In reality I have a little way to go to genuinely get close to the two or three guys that I know can out run me in my age group, but I should be very happy with the race on race improvement I have experienced since returning to racing just a few weeks ago. I know what to do from this point and if I can stay injury free I should continue to pick up speed and stamina for this demanding little race. 5K races hurt, notably if run at pace. This is something I am set to explore in the coming weeks. The clear light of reason and much appreciated advice will stunt the volume of the complaints my inner running ego and allow me to continue to enjoy the fact that I am running at all. This is something we should all be gratefull for as we witness the passing of more racing seasons !

As for the inner runner and his expression of angst at being less than him former self I can only refer him to the wise words of Ryan Hall and respectfully ask the ego to be quiet awhile

‘Training, especially after injuries,requires patience and faith. Not comparing yourself to where you’ve been but celebrating progress is key’

Well put Ryan !!!

This weekend saw progress indeed and if progress is good enough for Ryan Hall its good enough for me!!!

Thanks Danielle for sharing this, it made a difference and that is why I love running. We do this stuff !!!!!

Team mates inspire

Team mates inspire