Cambridge Half Marathon – I’m in it!

 

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A man contemplates his punting pole! He was happily punting, albeit with a complete absence of skill, when his pole got stuck in the mud. He decided not to let go, the punt continued on its way and he fell in. I came late to this minor human tragedy. He had already hauled himself out of the unforgiving river Cam and I caught him considering his next move. Or the refraction of light.

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I haven’t been running much lately but now I’m picking it up again. I took this pic at Cambridge parkrun in mid September during my running pause. Chris is leading at the off and comes in first. Far left in the red top is Mary who is in the 80-84 age range and invariably completes the 5k in 28-29 minutes.

I’m in the Cambridge half marathon, along with my son Dan. There’s a field of 9000 for 2017 and it’s at the beginning of March . I’ve got five months to train up so I’m spoilt for time.

Last year I managed to get food poisoning the day before the Cambridge half and missed it. I don’t think I had ever felt more ill in my entire life. I’ll forgo the Tesco cheese cake this time around.

Anyone heard of the British Gut Project? We’re thinking of signing up and sending them a poo sample. They will analyse your microbiome, that is, examine the profile of your gut bacteria. There is currently more focus on gut bacteria and its relationship  with illness, weight gain, mood and inflammation. The British Gut Project is scientific research which is crowd funded so you pay them to accept your poo. It’s very expensive compared with flushing it away but more fun and more informative. It’s also a novel Christmas present and an excellent talking point at the family dinner table.

In the interest of increasing the diversity of my gut bacteria I’ve started eating mouldy blue veined cheese as recommended, or possibly suggested, in Tim Spector’s The Diet Myth : The Real Science Behind What We Eat. I’m so suggestible! He leads theBritish Gut Project at King’s College London and has got 5000 twins on his books. That’s a lot of twins!

 

 

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London and Greenwich : a bit of running and a lot of walking

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And so to London for a four night break. We stayed in Greenwich, walked heroic distances along the Thames footpath and travelled up and down the Thames on the Thames Clippers, the speedy catamarans used by commuters, tourists and elegant, sophisticated travellers like ourselves. I also did a bit of running between Greenwich and the O2 Arena. There’s still a great deal of new building work and development along the banks of the Thames, in the main high priced speculative flats for investment and people with more money than sense. Nevertheless, many of the wooden quays and landing stages have been preserved or part preserved and the history and character of the river is still intact.

I’ve discovered I like running through industrial landscapes and wending my way through building sites or cement works. We’re not talking about trespass here, just following access paths created to negotiate past all the development. Strangely, I didn’t meet many people during sections of my run. Obviously not every one shares my enjoyment of running past heavy machinery, cranes, temporary fencing and portacabins. Odd, that! To me, it’s reassuring that despite the business and congestion of London, you don’t have to go far off the beaten track to lose the crowds or feel alone.
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I took this pic at Greenwich and caught this large passenger liner travelling up river to dock alongside HMS Belfast, just past Tower Bridge.

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Another interesting aspect of the Thames is the opportunity to walk along the shore line at low tide which you can do at many points.

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The view from Greenwich Park adjacent to the Greenwich Observatory with a fascinating panoramic landscape of London spread out before you.

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CycleSuperHighway. We came across this dedicated 2/3 lane road way for cyclists and runners at the Embankment. It goes on for miles but if it’s like this section, it’s impressive. The Highway is properly separated from traffic by curbs and you feel safe (unlike us poor pedestrians trying to traverse it). A miracle must have occurred to bring it into existence in the teeth of London traffic congestion.

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The docked liner with Tower Bridge closing in the background. Cruises start at around £14,000. Think of how many books that could buy!

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Back to Cambridge. People and punts together are endlessly interesting and I can’t stop snapping them.

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I’m not doing much running at the moment, perhaps just parkrun and one other run between 45 and 60 minutes a week. I am doing an average of 13,000/14,000 steps a day, however, and I’m happy with that. We went to Wimpole Estate parkrun last Saturday and that went well. As usual, I walked up the short but steep hill and this enables me to start off at a reasonable pace at the top without feeling all in. We had a tasty coffee with our good friends before I repaired to the Wimpole pre-loved bookshop and rescued some old maps. Incredible how some people can abandon their books. I’m sure there’s a treatment for it somewhere!

 

 

 

Don’t jump in!

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Trinity Hall’s Jerwood Library, completed in 1998 and opened in 1999, just 649 years after Trinity Hall was founded in 1350. That’s a long time to wait for a decent library. I was a little anxious about the vaguely Alfred Hitchcockian man gazing down at the punt about to pass beneath him. I had a vision of him vaulting the railings, landing on the punt and crashing through the wooden floor.Needless to say, it was all in my head and no punt related incident or tragedy occurred.

I am now a returned club runner having virtually stopped attending from October last year. Yesterday was a pleasant, sunny day in Cambridge (see visual evidence above) but when I left home at 6.10 pm it was overcast cold and raining. By the time we road runners left the warmth and shelter of the Cambridge University Athletics clubhouse it was raining hard and continued to do so for three quarters of the session. Of course I under estimated the severity of the weather and didn’t wear the right jacket. I got thoroughly soaked and if the temperature had been lower I would probably have given up. However, after warming up and running the first of 4 x 1500 metres, I felt much better. On my return I had a shower and tasty meal and overall I felt energised, alert and more alive. So that’s my advice. If you’re feeling tired, lethargic and generally lackadaisical, go for a hard run (in the rain preferably) and you’ll find yourself on top form again (disclaimer : you need to have a certain amount of running fitness or you might go from bad to worse, and this approach  might only work for me. Has this advice been helpful? I’ll leave the world to decide.

I saw something relatively unusual today. A man and a women, probably in their mid seventies, passed by me riding a tandem tricycle. They weren’t sporty and didn’t look as if they were fitness advocates.They were cycling together, out in the sunshine, enjoying themselves and going places. The tandem tricycle was stable and they didn’t have to continually focus on balance. Marvellous!

I’m reading the third book, The Conscience of the Rich, in C.P.Snow’s Brothers and Strangers sequence. I think it’s the right one. They weren’t published in the right sequence and I’ve managed to mislay a number of them after I was forced to tidy them away. Note to self : begin to stack books in towers throughout the house so they are ever at hand.

 

 

Janathon Day 16 Drama on the start line

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Picture by John Wilderspin

Cambridge parkrun and they’re off! Well at least two of them are. The man in the orange with folded arms is clearly sulking and thinking about it.

Chris in the blue top is showing serious intent and goes on to win it (I mean he completes it first, it’s not a race of course). Nice pose by Paul who sets them off with his horn (except the sulky guy who’s not playing ball).

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Picture by John Wilderspin

Here I am, lost in my own world, slightly open mouthed and fully attired for freezing weather. Compare and contrast with the near naked elite on the start line. The temperature is around minus 1c which is cold enough to wear  my warmest jacket. Trail shoes were essential. There was ice, broken ice, mud, frozen mud and water lurking everywhere so one had to concentrate or one could find oneself coming a cropper.

Post run we had coffee with our good friends and very enjoyable it was, too. Tea was also taken.

Despite the cold and frosty weather, the sun held most of the day and we went into Cambridge in the afternoon. How lucky are we to live close to such a beautiful city which is really no bigger than a medium sized town.

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Here is the still spooky Trinity Lane.

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And here is the last of the Saturday sun shining on the righteous.

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One last pic. Cambridge University Press is currently having a book sale. All softback/paperbacks £3 and hardbacks £7. CUP academic books are notoriously expensive. It’s a big sale and goes on for three weeks with books being added daily. It’s beyond excitement. I’ll be back!

 

 

Alive and Running March 26 2015

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The Bridge of Sighs, St. John’s College, Cambridge. I had to follow the Tourist Route through the College which doesn’t allow plebs over the bridge but at other times access is granted. Possibly St. John’s has the biggest grounds of all the Cambridge colleges. It’s undeniably impressive and the Bridge of Sighs is a beautiful structure. Must go for a punt soon!

The Naked Rambler, Stephen Gough, who for years has been fighting for the right to walk about naked in public, has been refused permission to appeal against an earlier decision by the European Court of Human Rights that his repeated arrest, prosecution, conviction and imprisonment for public nudity did not breach his human rights. He is currently serving a two and a half year sentence after he walked out of prison only wearing boots and socks following a previous prison term. I presume this extreme punishment is a result of repeated contempt of court. What a sad and ridiculous situation. I don’t think this eccentric man is regarded as a threat in any shape or form other than his willful determination to walk around unclothed. Possibly the authorities feel it could start a trend, or worse, a fashion. Surely, as a caring and compassionate society, we can accommodate a few naked people walking around and not feel so disturbed by it we are compelled to lock them up. Who wants to break a butterfly on a wheel?

I remain only an intermittent runner at present. Last weekend I ran the Swavesey 5 miler although I could have taken part in the Swavesey Half Marathon. I ran it 2 minutes faster than last year which pleased me until I read in my little running log I was getting over an injury at that time. Still, I did enjoy it and the weather was kind.

Club night two nights ago. We ran 6 x 700 metres at varying paces with a recovery jog back to the start. I was the second slowest runner in a group of around 20 but we broke into small similar speed groups and it all seems to work for everyone.

I ventured into the Cambridge University Press bookshop in the Market Square, Central Cambridge this week and cast my eyes over some beautiful books with eye watering prices (available on Amazon but at no reduction in price). No purchase made but it was a close run thing. I might return naked. I suspect they wouldn’t bat an eyelid!

Finally, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, Professor of Cognitive Neuroscience, was speaking about her career and the development of the teenage brain on The Life Scientific on Radio 4. Well worth listening to via podcast or Radio 4 Listen Again.

 

 

Alive and Running March 19 2015

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These brave Cam punters are well wrapped up against the February weather (yes, it’s last month’s pic) and having to swarm together to stay warm. Unable to operate their own poles, they are reduced to employing slaves  to navigate the river. Passive or what? And expensive. But on the other hand the chauffeurs are very informative and entertaining. So the choice is yours. Bob’s yer uncle, Fanny’s yer aunt, so they say.

I’m fully recovered from the exertions of the Cambridge half marathon although I haven’t been running much this week. I did go out with the club on Tuesday evening. How did I find it? Demanding! The pendulum is definitely swinging in favour of the fitter and faster runners. The new coach is trying to be inclusive but the the unvarnished truth is that most of my fellow runners are quicker and younger than me. Nevertheless, it is possible to adapt and successfully take part in the new regime. We did 6 x 6 minutes. Each 6 minutes was split up into 2 minutes at marathon pace, 2 minutes at 10k pace, 1 minute at 5k pace and 1 minute jog recovery before going into the next 6 minutes. So, running continuously, at different speeds, for 36 minutes, with no stop recoveries. We did something similar in the last two sessions but on this occasion it felt more manageable. The changes of pace were governed by whistle and on this occasion there were two whistles blown by two coaches running at different speeds. I was able to I hear it despite being well behind the fastest runners and therefore felt part of the group.

Alive and Running February 16 2015

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Cambridge junior parkrun yesterday morning. They’re off, just over a hundred of them, running in muddy conditions and loving it. I volunteered as timer but this changed to photographer (or one of them).

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Seems to be rather a lot of adults running with their offspring and some of them are checking their watches. Good job it’s not competitive, isn’t it? You can clearly see how enjoyable it is for the children and they are constantly cheered around the course.

10366205_869057729799568_7495588904252193199_n On Saturday we went down to East Londinium and did Valentines Park parkrun in Valentines Park on Valentines Day for their 4th anniversary. Follow? I’m standing next to Joe who is marginally taller, marginally younger and marginally faster than me. You could say I’m living on the margins! We met up with some old work pals and friends from Cambridge, ran the race, had coffee in the large park cafe and then walked to a Wetherspoons pub in Ilford for a brunch. The food was surprisingly good and inexpensive.

We liked Valentines parkrun. Gill (not in the picture) also runs there. She is the sister of my Cambridge ex running rival, Mike and coincidentally someone I vaguely knew at work when I lived in East London (and had yet to come across Mike). Gill is also known to three of my children who also run sporadically at Valentines.

It’s Cambridge half marathon in 3 weeks. I’m back to full fitness but not running speedily. This is due to –

1. Being slightly overweight.

2. The cold weather.

3. Inconsistent running.

4. Taking my cardiac medication at different times before the run (possibly).

However on the longer runs I’m finding it easier. Yesterday I did 11.25 miles  comfortably and didn’t feel tired afterwards. As I loped along I thought how lucky I am to be able run such a distance, run regularly and take part in races despite having had a heart attack four and a half years ago. Since I was fit before my cardiac “event”, I regained my fitness levels relatively quickly. Of course I was highly motivated, my family were completely supportive and in Cambridge, the cardiac rehabilitation service was excellent and I had received treatment very quickly. But I was surprised that the take up rate for rehabilitation was only around 44-46%. Apparently this is regarded as a high. It consisted of a series of specific talks and physical rehab in the hospital gym conducted by cardiac rehab nurses, a sports scientist, dieticians and others over a period of several months. I found it extremely helpful. Why wouldn’t you take it up unless you had your head in the sand! Ah…there’s the answer.

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                                                                   Cambridge in the summer. Please bring it on…..quickly.