Wednesday, 22 July 2020


I am so far behind. I am never going to catch up with July. You'll have to do with some notes and I've put all my photos so far to music. It's 'Leaving' performed by Chet Baker and some other folk.

Phase 3 of lockdown comes at last and Mary gets out of the city. It was a profound moment.
The pubs are opening again, with social distancing. There are tram-works going up Leith Walk - for what must be the third time in 5 years - how can that be necessary? No, don't answer me. I don't care. It's just one of those things like Brexit that is beyond understanding and out of our control.
The good people of Leith have been using the fenced off areas in the middle of the street to drink distantly in. The whole of Leith became a big pub for a while. Probably some people felt like their dreams were being answered.
Now they're allowed to squeeze back in the pubs and from the point of view of it being quieter at night, I'm grateful.

I'm still running across Tennessee. It's been good. I meant to tell you more about it. The facebook page has been entertaining and friendly mostly. There are something like 19,000 people that signed up for it, from all over the world.

A lot of people have finished and are heading back to the start again. That was never my plan. When I finish, I think I'll just head to the sea.

I was neck and neck with Louise Provan for a while, but she's fallen behind. She would have to make a stupendous effort now to catch and beat me :-).

One of the notable things that happened was that one of the runners, Kim McCoy, got hit by a car in the US. She had a broken arm but also had to have one of her legs amputated above the knee because it was too badly damaged. Her sister Jessica put up a GoFundMe page to try to raise some money because she'd need money to move to a ground-floor flat and get some adaptations. There was a huge response and they had hit their $50K target within a couple of days. Jessica raised the target and they have received more money, but it poured in in the first few days. It was nice to see the power of 19,000 runners wanting to help.

That'll be a big adjustment now. Kim's plan was to get a carbon fibre leg as soon as possible

I keep getting emails from Jet2 tempting me to book another holiday. Peter is keen as mustard but I want to hold back just a little while to see how the whole maybe having to quarantine thing pans out.

I keep watching the number of Coronavirus deaths. There's a handy table at Worldometer. The number of cases doesn't tell you much because it's dependent on how many people have been tested and if they were tested in the narrow window when the tests are reliable - but the deaths give you something more. There are still differences in how Coronavirus deaths are counted in different countries so you can't compare absolutely like for like. If you look at the number of deaths per head of population instead of absolute numbers you can see the UK is still pretty high up the league tables. England seems to be treating itself as a willing guinea pig for the rest of the world.They are world leaders in having the Coronavirus and liking it.

I'm not necessarily knocking it. The countries with severe lockdowns like Spain and Italy didn't do particularly well, and there's the big question mark over what will happen with them coming out of lockdown.

I've got a half theory that a lot of people must feel a need for big human events and that all the riots and protests have emerged as a result of all the frustration from the football and festivals that never happened. It's just a theory. I don't feel the need for either. My reaction to seeing big groups of people gathering to protest was "you've got to be kidding me, and yourselves". Actually there was more swearing than that.

I am just grateful to be able to get out of the city again. I am sick of Zoom and NHS near me and Microsoft Teams. 

Maybe in August we'll find more Holly Blues. Don't think Peter hasn't been thinking about it. And we might do the virtual 7 Hills of Edinburgh Race. If we're going to do Roly McCraw's terrible 8 laps of Arthur's Seat marathon, it has to be before the 4th October. I think I've really got to. Especially as Roly is the only person who has actually done it yet. So I'm getting more hills in my legs.
Arthur's Seat has improved hugely since people could shop and go to the pub again. I was out today and saw nearly no-one.

Bye for now.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Requiem for a lost running friend.

Peter and I both were, and are, surprised at just how very upset we were to read that James Harrison was killed last week on his bike. It was last Thursday, so I guess the 25th June. The news report said he had a crash with a Mercedes Sprinter at 8.45am, so likely on his way to work.

James cropped up in our lives round about 2009/2010 when he joined Portobello and came and raced with the club for a while. I first chatted with him at the KB5 in 2010. He came with me for a cool-down. I was a bit worried that he was an elite runner and he might not understand how slow a cool-down with me really might be - but he didn't seem to notice. I found out he was a nurse too and worked in Intensive Care. He told me he was going to Budapest to the World Triathlon Championships later in the year to compete for GB in his age group. I asked him how he managed to train and it clearly wasn't easy. His work wasn't giving him special treatment just because he was an elite athlete, so he had to do night-shifts and weekends, same as everyone else. He wasn't complaining but I felt peeved on his behalf. My charge nurses were supportive and accommodating of my running and showed a great deal of flexibility in allowing me to deploy my modest talent in Scotland's racing world (at the time I was working in an acute pychiatric ward in the Royal Edinburgh).

He was  good at the short, fast stuff (I say that, but he also did quite a few hill races well according to his Scottish Hill Racing page and a sub 2.45 marathon according to his Power of 10 page.) and he turned out for the Borders XC series. You can see him listening patiently, in the picture above, as I go on about something after the Dunbar leg of the Borders XC series. Doubtless it was fascinating. Well probably not, but he showed an interest anyway.

He moved on from Portobello and I gathered he'd been busy getting married and having children. I had atrial fibrillation and all that drama so I was out of racing. I caught up with him again when I was spectating at the Carnethy 5 in 2015. I'd had this brain-wave that instead of running it I could just take photographs and suit myself. I ran into James at the Howe. I asked him if he was still doing triathlon and he laughed and said he was a father now. I told him about the atrial fibrillation and unbeknownst to me he had moved to working in cardiology so he understood about the ablation and what that meant.

Then I saw him again at the Pentland Skyline in 2017. Then I saw him again at The Bicycle Works when I was picking up my newly mended bike. He was doing something with bike wheels - I never grasped quite what - maybe getting them trued or something, but it was lovely to catch up with him. I was asking him about his running and I think he was telling me he'd been doing some track running and getting his times down. We did that thing where we were chatting so much he kept missing his place in the queue. When he came in he said "nice jacket" and I think I went on about it a bit without thinking and it was only when I came out the shop I realised he'd said it because he was wearing the same jacket as me. Duh.

And that's probably it. At work, browsing through the NHS jobs, I saw recently that James was given as the contact for a job as a research nurse doing some kind of research in the Cardiology dept. I think he was working with Neil Grubb, who's a consultant cardiophysiologist and did my ablation.  I felt pleased for James because he was obviously doing well and hoped I'd get to ask him about it some time.

Actually I expected to get the chance to ask him about it. That was the thing. I was quite sure I'd see James Harrison again and have more chats with him. Runners get busy and disappear for a while, especially when they've had families - but they come back again.

I see from a news report that he'd volunteered to go back and help-out in Intensive Care when they were under pressure because of Covid 19. Of course he would.

So that's more or less all of it; all of my contact with James, and it was enough to make me feel like I want to go back in time and make there not be an accident, or make him have a soft-landing or just somehow alter things so that there isn't this horrible finality. And I see from the news reports that he was only 36 which makes me think he was only 25 when I met him... just a baby!

He was warm and friendly and easy to get along with and just very modest about being a fab athlete.

Aaaah. So. Maybe it'll turn out there's been a mix up and it was some other James Harrison that got killed the other day. A more expendable one. One that made people unhappy. The real James could come back and we could make a big fuss of him. I'm not sure there was enough fuss made about him. He was very good quality.

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Another 2 weeks

 Right, what will we talk about today? Time will tell.

The day after the race we felt pretty wrecked but I wanted to get a few more miles in for the week. It was hard for either of us to get going and it looked wintry outside so we both wore long-sleeve woollen tops. Outside we went and discovered it was one of these stinking, hot, humid days, but were too lazy to go all the way back upstairs and get changed.
Peter said we should go round Arthur's Seat and I fell for it. Before I knew it, we weren't running at all, we were clambering through undergrowth looking for the next butterfly, the newest emergence...ah God. I didn't have the energy to argue. So I plodded around glumly looking for things to photograph while monsieur scurried here and there.


During the week I ran about the deserted centre of town by myself.

Last Saturday, the sun was back. Peter exercised his bike down to Gullane to chase butterflies and I set off with a vague notion that I'd do some of the 7 hills route. 


Clermiston Tower - in case you were wondering.

I actually thought I might go home after Corstorphine Hill but then I kept just thinking I'd do a wee bit more. So I did Craiglockhart and then the Braids...and then Blackford Hill. 

It really was hot and by now I was heartily sick of it but somehow felt that I HAD to do Arthur's Seat. I was gonna, I swear, but then I took a slightly funny route off Blackford Hill and before I knew it I was heading back through the very centre of town. It was such a relief.

This has got to be one of the poshest green-houses ever. You could only see this much over the wall.

By the end of that run I had run 6 out of the 7 hills and 16 miles and that felt like plenty.

The next day we had a coffee and cake run planned with Nick, which we had. I obviously didn't take any pictures though. I was  trailing the whole way.

During the week I had a new idea for a route around town incorporating Granton and Corstorphine Hill. I went  out and tried some of it, nearly dying off in the heat of the day. 

There's a prize for anyone who can tell me where this sign is.

On Saturday we were going to meet up with Nick for coffee, cake and a run again so I generously offered to take them on my new route. It's an...err...broad range of abilities and I had to shout instructions from behind while pegging along, praying for red men and excuses for stopping. Ollie probably saved my life early on by being at the far end of the Leith Links. 

Coming back into town from Corstorphine Hill, was very thirsty work, and when I mentioned the idea that maybe we should have a beer, the idea took hold. 

Today we ran 8 miles round town. I lost Peter for a little while but then he caught me up. I took pictures of the fish and the lotus flowers. Peter took the picture of me with Jesus. Jesus whispered to me that that isn't my best t-shirt.