Monday, 14 March 2016

Silverstone Half

Day 13547

Today I ran Silverstone Half Marathon. I hadn't particularly been looking forward to it as I prefer trails and this was all tarmac. Also though I feel fitter than ever I've not managed to be very consistent recently, and done very little speedwork, so had no idea what pace I could achieve. I've also had a calf niggling away since last June, and I wasn't sure how it would cope with pushing. My PB was 1:46 something, so I decided to stick with the 1:45 pacer and see how things went. The weather has been interesting the last few days, very foggy in the mornings and then lovely later in the day, and today was no exception.
It was foggy when I left home at 9 and just got thicker and thicker. The race was at Silverstone Grand Prix track. I'm no racing fan, but arriving at the course with amazing buildings and stands with the track running through all shrouded in mist was pretty cool. The sun started to burn through the fog, and we had bright sunshine for most of the race, but it was cool, about 10 degrees: pretty much ideal race conditions. I was running with a few friends from work, all with different goals, one for whom this was his first half.
The siren went, and we were off! I was pretty good at sticking to my plan, tucking in between the 1:45 pacer for the first 6 miles. I felt largely comfortable, so at the halfway point I forged off on my own. I pushed quite hard, trying to stay balanced and with a strong core. I managed to keep speeding up till the last mile where I definitely ran out of steam and slowed down a little. My final time 1:43:23. To say I'm chuffed to bits would be an understatement.
I then funnelled out and went to see the others finish. I managed to miss them, partly because I saw someone collapse right before the finish line! He came down hard and was bleeding from the side of his face. Now I'm a first aider and perhaps should have leapt the fence and come to help, but three runners were with him straight away and then paramedics and a doctor so I kept back, somewhat guiltily eating dried fruit and nuts. The guy next to me however filmed it all on his phone the prick. The casualty ended up having CPR and they brought a defibrillator. Very bad. However he started moving again thank God. They took him away in an ambulance. Crazy stuff.
I managed to miss all my friends, but then we met up and it had been a bit of a mixed bag. The guy who was running for the first time managed 2:10, very impressive, but the others were less happy.
Still a good day running-wise for me, with some unexpected and shocking drama to chew on. Hope that guy was ok.
Then it took an hour to leave my parking space cos of the traffic queue! Srsly Silverstone, that was crap! Anyway now home with lovely wife and daughter trying to process. Nanu nanu.

Thursday, 10 March 2016


Day 13544

Books are incredibly important to me. I have been reading intensively for all of my life and this has mainly focused on the genres of fantasy and science fiction. The focus has shifted back and forth between these genres over the years, but I get something meaningful from both of them.
I have tried at various times to try and expand my reading. Mainly out a feeling that my preferred genres are not very sophisticated and I should try and better myself: this never ends well. I like a lot of non-fiction but find it dry: not so good to read before bed and best left for a holiday. I have found few classics that I have got any real enjoyment or mind expansion from. There are of course exceptions. The Glass Palace by Amitav Ghosh is amazing and I loved Foucault's Pendulum and The Name of the Rose by Umberto Eco.
I always come back to fantasy and science fiction though. Over the last few years I had been reading more and more science fiction, and feeling that fantasy was perhaps being left behind. There are few new fantasy stories that have intrigued me in the way that the explosion of quality sci-fi has. However something has happened which has changed that. For a while now the background and mythos of one particular author had been nagging at me. I had been thinking how interesting this series was, even though I had found it flawed. I wondered how a roleplay might work in that world. The work in question is Steven Eriksen's 10 book epic Malazan Book of the Fallen.
Steven and his friend Chris Esslemont developed the world in their own roleplay, and that result is mindblowingly original, diverse and deep. Chris has written some of his own novels that run in parallel, and I've read some of these. However it is the Malazan books that had been haunting me. Finally earlier this year I could take it no more and I began a re-read.
This was a development. When I was younger I eagerly read and re-read my favourite authors and series, finding new things each time. However I had begun to feel that as there was so much else out there I should not re-read, but try to always pick up new material. This re-read has thoroughly repudiated that approach. While I had remembered the first two books as excellent, I had felt that the later quality had somewhat tailed off. This time round no such thing! The writing in books 3, 4 and 5 has been astounding. I have gotten so much more of  the repeated investment in time than I was expecting.
These books are seriously astounding. I have just started book 6 and cannot wait to continue the journey. This has all got me thinking whether there are other old faves I would similarly get more out of now that I'm a little older and more grizzled.
I think the main point of this post is that reading for any reason other than you have a pull towards a particular book is, for me, a mistake. You can read for the wrong reasons, and for me the worst reason is that I think I ought to be reading something else. We live in an age when more is written each year than ever before. No one can read a tiny percentage of what has and will ever be written, so follow your nose. While the great classics and intellectual masterpieces are rightly praised, they are also not for everyone. Why make something that can be the source of so much joy so painful?
I know that part of the reason I run (come on, you know I was going to talk about running right?) is for the sense of adventure. Nearly all of the stories I love are tales of adventure, whether swords and sorcery or robots and spaceships. Loping along a trail over the Ridgeway makes me feel part of something similar, as does camping out or visiting somewhere new. And when I got home, physically exhausted and hungry, there's nothing I like better than to curl up in front of a fire with a cracking bit of fiction, and journey on in my imagination.