January 2018


Baffled by this topsy-turvy (running) life

Relief:  another 10,000m race completed

Dilemma upon dilemma.

Indecision resolved by decisions, which next day are quickly reversed. Back to square one.

Is this the mental turmoil that all sportspeople face as the body slows and energy fades?  The deciding when to quit.

Common wisdom says the clever ones know when to stop. They accept the situation for what it is: the closing of one door and the opening of another. Not a dead stop but simply a change of direction.

Or, in running terms, the passing of the baton to those who can still go the distance with comparative ease.

The question would appear to be a simple one: is it time to quit?

Last weekend, after weeks of internal debate, it was answered by wimping out of a ten-mile race along Cornwall’s hilly country lanes.

The body heaved a grateful sigh, the brain poured scorn upon such weakness. And so another day of debate ensued that made even the Brexit dialogues look constructive.

In the end, a bottle of bubbly was put to chill, a chook was marinated ready for the oven and dinner became a boozy celebration of the past alternating with commiseration for what was to come.

By bottle’s end, the decision had been made. After some seventy years  of competitive running (give or take a break or two) I had hit the final hurdle, and mind and body would simply have to cope.

After all, I had quit before. Several times. The Nellie Melba of running, said some.

There were those f**k it moments when the pressures of family, work and a job that offered an excess of five-star living put paid to any athletic activity.

And it was “no contest” when the choice lay between a long weekend freebie in Beirut, Barbados or Beirut, or churning out the wintry miles on the South Downs of Sussex.

Finally there was the promise I made (to others as well as to self) to quit when I could no longer run a sub three-hour marathon – a deadline that occurred in my sixty-seventh year on a tropically hot and humid day in Brisbane when I staggered home in 3:16.30.

But, like all addictions, the running habit was too hard to kick. It provided too much of a high to be able simply to say “No more” and walk (or even jog) away.

So here I am, sixteen years on from my last “retirement” and still battling  the voices that say enough is enough.

Judged purely by comparing times posted by fellow addicts in the same age bracket, I can still be considered in my prime, an elite.  Those times, however,  ensure my finishing place is way down the bottom of the results sheet.

They also mean I have probably walked, or even stopped, somewhere along the route.

That’s not running as I have always known it. And is it something I really want, or need, to do?

Would the body not be better served by a good brisk yomp along the ever-enticing wonder of the coastal path or high up on the moorlands of Bodmin or Dartmoor?

All too often the older competitors in masters’ athletics are portrayed by the media as oddities and curiosities; wizened bags of bones staggering towards the tape, hoping to get there before their heart shuts down.

It’s not a photo-shoot I wish to be a part of.

And yet I am still looking at the race calendar for 2018 and sending in my entry fees. The dilemma persists.

These words were begun with the intention of saying farewell and thank you to my immediate running community, and also to all those far and wide who have provided support, encouragement and companionship through the running years.

But, as I write, I find they also give voice to my inner turmoil, setting out the pros and cons, and the  dilemma others will face, whether through age or injury or other circumstance. And I still cannot bring myself to make the decision that is demanding to be made.

So it seems it’s not quite the intended goodbye after all; but I’m afraid it’s getting close. Very close. How many more hills can I climb?

Keep running, and enjoy it while you can.

 

 

Let’s be clear about this …

Now, I want to make myself perfectly clear  …

There must be no misunderstanding …

Make no mistake about this …

Blah, blah, blah.  Such well-worn phrases. So overused. Every day, someone, somewhere is prefacing their remarks with such statements of clarity and precision.

And they are usually people of great (self-)importance whose pronouncements are keenly awaited; that are meant to be heard because of the influence they can have on events and the thinking and actions of other similarly (self-)important people.

Sadly, that rarely happens. Words that are promised as leaving no room for error or misunderstanding, merely confuse and bewilder those for who they are intended.

So very few of all the millions of words that tumble forth from the world’s opinion makers possess the clarity that is promised. And considering that much of this verbal torrent is painstakingly crafted by skilled wordsmiths, it has to be assumed that this is no accident.

This does not occur because of unlimited vocabulary or lack of grammatical skill. It is cold-blooded manipulation of the language to distort meaning and cloud understanding.

To describe the practitioners of this black art merely as spin doctors is mealy-mouthed and far too gentle; like calling the Great Plague a bit of a virus.

Take the following as but two examples plucked from the morass of meaningless mutterings that assails us:

“As I have said, and others have said, consistently, it would be irresponsible for the British Government not to look across at the changes that would be necessary regardless of the eventuality, and indeed some of the changes that would be necessary in the event of a no deal would be the same as changes that would be made in relation to us achieving a deal.”

Phew! Understood? All clear? No room for doubt or questions?  Hmm, thought so. Maybe this will help:

“Given the way that things operate, it is highly unlikely that anything will be brought forward during that period that has not already started discussions through the European Union to which we are being party of until we leave and on which we would have been able to say whether or not there would be a rule that we would sign up to or a rule that we would not wish to sign up to.”

So there you have it; no wavering or room for doubt. As clear as the Great Bog of Allen on a dark night.

Both quotes come from Britain’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, a world leader famed for wanting “to make this clear” and then doing exactly the opposite.

But she is far from alone, merely one of the mob building the Great Wall of Obfuscation to shut out any who seek meaning, common sense and clarity from those who shape our pitiful little world.

The Great Wall of China is crumbling, likewise Hadrian’s lesser edifice; people power ripped apart the Berlin Wall and the Trump’s misguided Mexican Wall will hopefully remain in limbo.

This latest barrier needs to befall the same fate before its foundations are too firmly cemented in. And there is but one weapon to use: words, words, words.  But used sparingly and wisely, not sprayed mindlessly like confetti.

Let battle commence.

“The ill and unfit choice of words wonderfully obstructs the understanding”Francis Bacon