Saturday, 28 March 2015


Obligatory toilet shot.

Poor Mr Mouse. It wisnae me.

I know what you're thinking and I don't blame you. "Did you honestly run the road from Edinburgh to North Berwick again?" Well yes I did. I wasn't going to.
For some reason I've been feeling compelled to get in quite a bit of long training for the EM way early. And it's not doing me any good. I've done this lots of times before. I keep running on sorer and sorer legs and slow down incrementally so I'm about at my worst just before the marathon.

This weekend I was going to do something different. I thought I'd try to push out a faster and shorter run - maybe a 15 miler round the lagoons. But then the weather...strong Westerly with 50mph gusts. Running round the lagoons would mean running the last 7 miles into a stiff head-wind. So I thought I might as well load things in my favour and trundle down the road with the wind behind. I could have got a train from Longniddry, but it was only 14 miles in, which seemed too little. I could get a bus back to Edinburgh from a number of places along the road but it's a long haul, boring and often I kept going.

I didn't get a good sleep last night so I was tired today. For some reason Leith's finest were out in full voice last night. I thought I should record them and make an album "Sounds of Leith". Maybe I still will.
I stopped to get a coffee at the Co-op at Preston Pans. I think whoever was out in the street last night was in the PP Coop today. I tried not to make eye contact with anyone and I got out alive but it was a near thing. I spent a while choosing what I should eat for optimum performance. I settled on a raisin and biscuit Yorkie because it said it was Man Fuel. I don't know what the implications of this claim are or if they have an evidence-base...

I know me and Peter go on like caffeine was some kind of hallucinogenic but it does make a huge difference. For the first time on my run I was able to forget about the run. A very welcome release I can tell you. I found myself, instead, thinking about poetry.

I was thinking about a poem by Robert Creeley that I 75% like. I think that, just for a change, I will include it here and tell you what I think about it.

The Rain

All night the sound had   
come back again,
and again falls
this quiet, persistent rain.

What am I to myself
that must be remembered,   
insisted upon
so often? Is it

that never the ease,   
even the hardness,   
of rain falling
will have for me

something other than this,   
something not so insistent—
am I to be locked in this
final uneasiness.

Love, if you love me,   
lie next to me.
Be for me, like rain,   
the getting out

of the tiredness, the fatuousness, the semi-
lust of intentional indifference.
Be wet
with a decent happiness.
Robert Creeley, “The Rain” from Selected Poems of Robert Creeley. Copyright © 1991 by the Regents of the University of California. Reprinted with the permission of the University of California Press,

Source: Selected Poems (1991)
First of all, what I don't like about it is the second last stanza, because it's a bit cheesy. See what you think yourself. There's something a bit sexist, fruity and wet-lipped about it. But there are other things to like. The main thrust of the poem is about being unable to forget yourself and how tiresome that is. I've been reading a book called 'My Stroke of Insight' by Jill Bolte Taylor. (If you Google her she did a Ted Talk). It's about the author, who is a neuroscientist, having a massive stroke in the left hemisphere of her brain and what she experienced as the left side was knocked out and only the right hemisphere was functioning. Apparently our sense of ourselves as separate selves is in the left side of the brain, along with all the detailing and our sense of past and future. She was locked, quite blissfully, in an ever present now, with no sense of who she was.
It happens occasionally when you're out running. But most of the time, especially these days, it seems to be just stumbling down the road to North Berwick on sore legs, taking Selfies and wishing it was all over.

Sunday, 22 March 2015


Too many things have been happening, so I need to roll them all up into one blog. I had a week off my part-time job but I still had things to do. It wasn't until Thursday that I was truly freeeeeeeeee. Sadly, the radiator light came on in the car the night before, so my feeling of free-eee--dom!!! was blighted by worry and irritation about the mystery leak. I'd been looking forwards to Thursday since Monday since we were going to go a run, a swim in the sea to make up for the one I dodged on Sunday, and then go and see our friend Ben who is back in the land of the living.

The sun was out for the first time in ages. We were both tired but we more than rallied with a coffee out of Falkos. In fact we became rather foolish and had a sing song to raise our spirits as we ran through the gentle East Lothian landscape. The toads had chosen this day to emerge from their burrows. Sadly, running with PB knocks out my photobilities on two counts. 1. he's got a bigger lens than me. Yes, it's true. 2. If he stops to take a picture he can always catch up with me. If I stop to take a picture, I can't catch up with him. It's an unequal world we live in.

So I let him take the pictures. There is a plethora of pictures of toads and what-not on his blog.

Going in swimming, the sea was the most accommodating it had been for many months, so I had a proper swim. The water was clear enough so you could see under water. I swam so much my face went completely numb and I couldn't speak. When we came out the water, an enthusiastic girl dog-walker bounced up to say "What are you looking for?". I tried to tell her that we were just in for a swim and not really looking for anything, but all I could say was "fuh fuh fuh fuh".

Then we went to see our friend Ben who is now well back from the brink. Apart from being Slimmer of the Month, having lost a stone from a frame which would be called "spare" at the best of times, he was in pretty good form. He is reduced from 95 mile runs to a walk down the beach a couple of times a day. I'm sure he'll come back quickly. He is feeling lucky to be alive rather than unlucky to be struck down by a random bug. PB and me were so delighted to see and speak to him that neither of us took a picture, which is unusual.

We got home and the water had gone down significantly in the radiator. I topped it up and grumbled and cursed fate and wished that I could win a car.


Friday dawned, and the night before I'd decided that I'd go up Arthur's seat on my bike and see if I could get pictures of the eclipse. Peter had, as he can, already decided he was against the eclipse in some way. I wasn't going to invite him along because there's nothing more distracting when you're making up your own mind about something than to be flooded with a deluge of pre-formed opinions on the subject.

But then as I was nearly ready to go, I felt the prickings of guilt, because if it was spectacular PB would be kicking himself that he wasn't there. So I woke him up and told him what I was doing. "Wait a minute, I'm coming too!" he said, and turned out smartish.

Up the hill we took up separate stances, which was a good thing. The cloud cover was very helpful and acted as a filter so it was possible to catch glimpses and take pictures of the eclipse. It did get significantly darker; so much so that when Peter came up the hill and I took a photo of him my flash went off although it was after 9.30 in the morning. There was a party atmosphere up the top of the seat which had nothing much to do with the eclipse I think. "It's the end of the world, it's the end of the world" somebody screamed. A little Glaswegian girl, who had been drinking, stopped to speak to me on the way down. "It's FREEZIN' ISN'T IT?" she said, "God, that's AMAZING!". I didn't think it was all that amazing,as it has been parky everyday for some time, and I didn't encourage her particularly.

Peter and I met up again and he expressed his lack of enthusiasm for the whole event, with enthusiasm. Later he told me his mum wasn't that impressed either. I felt they had missed the point somehow and have tried to sketch out how below.

Just focusing on the sensations produced by the eclipse, it wasn't much cop. It got a little bit dark and cool, but, it being the very end of the winter, and as it gets dark every day, neither of these things are exciting in themselves. Other significant events in our history likewise produced no particular sensations in the moment. For instance, Copernicus placing the sun at the centre of our universe did not lead directly to any unusual sense impressions. The importance of this event was in the meaning produced. You can't look at meaning for too long without it becoming a bit intangible too. Changing your understanding of the earth's place in the universe can lead to feelings of yourself being smaller and the universe being larger than you thought. This can lead to a feeling of awe, which in modern parlance has become known as AMAZEBALLS.

The eclipse is amazing because it gives, for a moment, a 3D representation of what is happening in the sky. If everyone would shut up it might anyway.


Saturday dawned, I was tired and I was still peed off about my car. I've been through this whole thing before. Last year I had three different problems with the radiator and its paraphernalia. I don't have a garage like you have where they give you another car to drive while your one is getting fixed. That's for other people. Knowing that there's something wrong with the car makes planning difficult. In the bigger picture I guess it's part of the human condition. We set off on many a journey not knowing whether we will ever arrive or not. That being said I wish my damn car was working. And I was tired. Who wants a long hilly run in the Lammermuirs? Not me. And yet somehow I thought I should. It was the first day of spring.
There were many variables. The car was one and I was the other. I didn't know if either of us would make it.

Peter wanted to go to the Lammermuirs so he built in some incentives. At Carfraemill, exactly 8 miles into the run, there was the possibility of shortbread and strong coffee. That kept me going over the first bit. Carrying on along the road after this stop I was getting big wafts of the sheer boredom of the countryside, just like I was last Saturday. There was the usual litter of discarded things on the small verge at the side of the road. The cars went by too fast. The landscape seemed like a big nothing that you would drive through as quickly as you could to get away from it, all the while squashing birds and runners and small mammals and chucking your coffee cups out the window. Then the sun lit up a field of sheep grazing in yellowy grass, and it looked lovely. It was a relief to get off the main road and set off down the smaller road that takes you on the return journey. I hadn't been on this road for a long time.

Once again, the coffee we'd had perked things up, so there was some singing and mucking around. This kind of freed us up for the 2nd half. The next stretch of road feels very remote. I 'let' Peter roam around taking pictures and concentrated on keeping up a steady kind of pace. My legs were already knackered from the first half. There are a lot of hills in them there hills. And I was tired anyway, but happy enough,and I kept going.

The last third of the run was really quite amazing. Numerous small fires had been set in the heather in the hills. The wind had dropped as it was getting towards evening, the sun was still out. We could see hills and plumes of smoke for miles. It nearly helped me forget my aching legs and yelping feet. As we ran the final 2 miles downhill to the car PB yelled about the view and I kept a close eye on my feet, not wanting to do any acrobatics this late in the day. 20.5 miles done, and an inspection of the radiator showed the water level was down, but not too far....

So today is another day. Just time for a second breakfast and I think it will be a recovery run and another swim in the sea and then some kind of preparation for Monday and adult life beginning again.

Saturday, 14 March 2015


It was meant to be cold with an easterly wind blowing. I got a train to North Berwick first thing in the morning. It was certainly cold, but was it really an easterly? How come it was blowing in my face? A mile into  my run I was already needing a pee so I crept into a spinney and happened upon the sad remains of somebody's Friday night. Was it one person alone, sitting in the bushes drinking four cans of Fosters, or was it a number of friends having a Fosters each? You've got to hope it was the latter.

It made me think about growing up in the country and the problem of boredom. The transactional analysts talk about stimulus and structure hunger, the things that happen to us when there's nothing going on. That's the kind of thing that can drive you to smoking cigarettes in a public toilet for kicks, or drinking cans of Fosters in a spinney. On the telly the cops are chasing the baddies. Meanwhile, out in the garden nothing happens, and keeps on happening. A snail slides up a wall, some moss grows. That's the kind of day it was today.

I felt stiff and slow despite having two days off. The cold wind didn't help. I stopped for a coffee in Gullane, a little shy of 5 miles in. A couple of miles down the road I thought I'd conquered boredom. I saw a Picasso bird in the road. It was in the bike lane so shouldn't really have been squashed by a car. While I was taking a picture of it another car nearly Picassoed me. Funny how on  these country roads you get two kinds of drivers; boy racers and couples in their late 70s wearing hats and driving at 40.

In the magic woods beyond Aberlady I took a self-timed selfie. It took some doing. I had to balance the camera and then run and jump up in a tree. There was an inexplicable shell in the woods and some great mouldering branches and intense mosses. I thought that all you have to do is settle into the boredom and nature will turn the contrast up for you, but I think it was just the coffee because it wore off.

A little down the road I met Richard Dennis running in the opposite direction to pick up his car in Gullane. We stopped for a chat until our legs stiffened up. His Garmin put itself off and messed up his stats. I'd forgotten to put off my Garmin which gave me a 19 minute mile. I was going slow but not that slow.

Things got worse. I stopped in Prestonpans for a twix. It was a hell of a job to get moving again. I was getting awfully near 10 minute mile pace but my legs weren't keen to do anything about it. Maybe it'll pass I thought. In Musselburgh I nearly ran to the train station but the thought that I may have missed the hourly train and would be in for a long wait stopped me. By the Portobello prom I couldn't stand it anymore. My legs were slow and sore and I was so bored. I nearly forced myself to run those last 4 miles no matter how I felt and then I wondered what the hell I was doing. Why should I? My legs didn't want to. Maybe they were right. So I got on a bus.

God, the bus. Full of people. A little old lady came and sat next to me. She wasn't shy about touching me either. She got herself good and comfy and then pulled out her Kindle. I had this suspicion she was reading 50 Shades of Grey. I tried to peep at the page and I did see the word "Love", but I couldn't see more. Not without being really blatant about it.

Then it was time to get off the bus and my legs felt like hell. They felt like they'd been encased in clay. I shuffled down the road and by the time I got home I was nearly running normally.

I'm available for inspirational talks. Just in case you were wondering.

Monday, 9 March 2015

Near Dark

Dawn Run? Guess Again.

Someone should have told me or reminded me or something. You start marathon training, you get into these longer runs, and suddenly you discover a whole world of lazy. I didn't want to lift a finger on Sunday, but I was in denial about this. I kept finding reasons to put off our run and swim until later.

I'm sure it's one of these polarities that emerge in most relationships but I tend to earliness and PB leans on the side of late. Yesterday I dropped the earliness ball and so it was we found ourselves at 5pm at Evan's Cycles still planning to go to Gullane to run and then to swim. The sun was setting just as we arrived at Gullane. We set off on a short run. It seemed unbearable to give up completely. 1.6 miles in the bag!

I'd been telling Peter that what we should do is just run in the water in our swimsuits and run out again and let that be our submerging activity for this week. Julia Henderson, who has also been swimming every week, but through in the West, had posted photos of her and her pals in swimsuits in a loch somewhere earlier in the day. He didn't fancy it and when it came down to it, neither did I. In fact "fancy" didn't describe any of my feelings at all. It was with a now familiar dread I pulled on my cold rubbery suit and made, penguin style, for the shore.

The water was a balmy 6 degrees, according to our scientific measuring device...but the blasted wind from the West was a lot colder. We swam a little bit. There was no real way of knowing if you were making any headway or not. I was very careful to stay in water that was shallow enough so that I could touch the bottom with my hand if need be. Then we called it a day. It was hard getting changed in the car in the dark.

So all we had left to do then was go a Tesco's shop and drop off a loaf at Peter's mum's house, then get showers and hose down our wetsuits. It was after 9pm when I had my tea. Which is too late. And I'm supposed to be out running again right now, but instead I'm cowering indoors next to a nice warm computer as a grey looking rain drums on the window. Hell's teeth. I wish it was the summer. I better go.