Friday, 13 October 2017

Get set for Cross Country - with Future Islands and Sampha

Seems like only yesterday we were sweating around the track on summer evenings, and now the cross country season is upon us again. Not feeling particularly fit myself, but looking forward to the start of the Surrey League at Reigate Priory tomorrow. Here's some musical inspiration for all the cross country crew, wherever you are.

'Ran' by  Future Islands came out earlier this year, the video featuring the permanently agitated singer Samuel T. Herring running across fields and through the woods around their native Baltimore- though can't help feeling if he'd been wearing a vest and shorts he could have kept running a bit longer, as he seems to have run out of steam by the end.





'On these roads
Out of love, so it goes
How it feels when we fall, when we fold
How we lose control, on these roads
How it sings as it goes
Flight of field, driving snow
Knows the cold
Ran round the wailing world'
(Future Islands, Ran, 2017)






Sampha

Meanwhile Blood on Me by 2017 Mercury Prize winner Sampha has the soulful South Londoner (he's from Merton) running on both a greyhound track and through a barley field before he collapses.




A bit more suitably attired for athletics than Sam Herring, he nevertheless also has too many layers on for sustained endurance!




'I got lost astray
In this forest runnin' away'
(Sampha, Blood on Me, 2016)






See previously:

Musicians in Motion -



Monday, 9 October 2017

The Art of Athletics (10): Hank Willis Thomas and Julian Opie at Frieze

The Frieze Art fair, held in a temporary marquee in London’s Regents Park every October, is like a contemporary art version of a Marathon expo. You start off like a kid in a toy shop– so many stalls, so much to see, all this stuff you really like under one roof. Then, after about an hour of wandering around, you feel hot, dehydrated, overstimulated and in desperate need of some fresh air. In between you can have a good time! There are some differences– for instance, at the Marathon expo there is no Deutsche bank wealth management lounge. Running is relatively cheap unless you get on the World Majors Marathon circuit, and it's not quite up there with the art market as an opportunity to recycle dubiously acquired cash.

Hank Willis Thomas

 Anyway there was plenty, in fact more than plenty of work of interest at this years Frieze. On the sporting front there was Hank Willis Thomas's Faith - a basketball balanced on praying hands.



The American artist has previously made some challenging work drawing comparisons between the treatment of black athletes and slavery, including 'Strange Fruit' which shows a basketball player hanging as if lynched, and the self-explanatory 'basketball and chain' (2003).


There's also his marvellously titled 'An Unidentified Jamaican Boy Used the Puma H Street Running Shoe to Run for his Freedom'


Julian Opie

Julian Opie is probably best known outside of the art world for his images of Blur for the sleeve of the ''Best of' compilation album (2000). On display/sale at Frieze 2017 was his 'Soldier', a continuous digital animation of a woman running.



This is only one of a series of athletics-inspired work he has made. In fact this image featured in a whole running themed exhibition in Oslo in 2015. The titles 'Soldier', 'Doctor', 'Taxi Driver' presumably refer to the day jobs of the runners. All of which makes me think Opie may be a runner himself, though he's not on Power of 10!

Julian Opie, Joggers.1. (2015)




Cory Arcangel's Three Stripes made a good photo background for anyone sporting Adidas, which as usual included me.  A critical reflection on brands or just more branded content? You decide!







Thursday, 31 August 2017

Come to the Ladywell 10,000m

This Sunday 3rd September I will be running in the Ladywell 10000m, my first time running this distance on the track on what should be a great day out at Lewisham's Ladywell Arena.

This is the biggest event of the year for my club, Kent AC, who are based at the track. There will be six races, the first starting at 3 pm and the last at 7:30 pm, with some top club runners at the faster end chasing down times of around 30 minutes.


Highgate Harriers' Night of 10000m PBs has shown that it is possible to make watching long distance running a great day out. Seeing people giving it their all as the races unfold gradually over 25 laps, while hanging out having a drink, is a great way to spend a day. Ladywell might not be on quite the same scale as Highgate, but a lot of effort has gone in to making this a memorable event. There will be food and drink from the West Norwood based London Beer Company, and as at Highgate people will be encouraged to get close to the action to cheer on the runners.


The Ladywell 10000m represents another step forward in the revival of grass roots running in London and beyond. Following a period when some of the events organised by national bodies had become lacklustre and routine, events like Night of 10000m PBs (initiated by Highgate's Ben Pochee), Orion Harriers' Fast Friday, the Soar mile at Battersea, Hercules Wimbledon 5k night, not to mention British Milers Club events, are putting some energy and excitement back into track racing. Arguably this is a perfect time for this revival, with a new wave of people coming into club running via parkrun and looking to take the next steps on to faster times and competitive racing.


The track is behind Lewisham Hospital, come along and check it out, it's free admission. If you are a runner in SE London and looking to improve further, you might want to see the local club in action and see if it's for you- we cater for everyone from parkrun improvers to Olympians.

Check out this great short film of the Ladywell Arena, posted on twitter by Olympic 400m runner Conrad Williams, who belongs to the club:

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Running in Lisbon

Lisbon is a great city for a holiday - good food, drink, largely unspoilt old buildings and streets in the centre, great art galleries and museums, and beaches within easy reach by cheap public transport. But what's it like to run in?

Well like all hot places in the summer, it's best to run early in the morning. I found that by 7:30 am in August it was already getting uncomfortably hot to run,  but in any case in a busy tourist destination you need to be out early to avoid the crowds and traffic. As in most cities, early on the only people on the streets are runners and clubbers from the night before.

The other factor is that, like Rome, Lisbon is a city built on seven hills. As I will explain, there are some flatter runs possible, but not too many.
'Build sofas not walls' - sand sculpture

Lisbon sits on the River Tagus where it runs into the Atlantic so the most straightforward flat route is to run along the river. I started out on my first day at the riverfront in front of Praça do Comércio (a main square in the centre) and just turned right and headed west. You can stay on the riverbank for large parts of the run, in places there are docks and other fenced off places that push you away from the river, but it's easy enough to follow paths parallel to the river until you can rejoin it. If you're worried about getting lost, just wait until another runner comes along and follow them - there's a steady stream in the morning.

I ran for about three miles to the Ponte 25 de Abril (25 April bridge), a Golden Gate style suspension bridge which crosses the river  - it takes its current name from the revolt of 25 April 1974 that ended more than 40 years of fascist-style dictatorship. And no you can't run across it, it's strictly for vehicles except during the annual Lisbon Half Marathon where it forms part of the course.

Other runners take the train from Cais do Sodre train station to Belem a bit further along the river (where many of the museums/galleries are) from where you can run out beyond the city and along the coast out to the beaches to the west.




Not so flat, but not too much of an incline is the Avenida da Liberdade (Liberty Avenue), a tree lined and therefore relatively shady boulevard heading north west from Rossio square. This is a good run of over 1 km before you reach a park, Parque Eduardo VII. As with many of Lisbon's streets you are running on tiles or cobbles which are not always as even as they appear - so lift those knees up!

Avenida da Liberdade




In the park on the east side (the right side if you are coming up from city centre) is the Carlos Lopes pavillion, a  1920s building renamed in honour of the Portuguese winner of the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics Marathon in 2:09:21. Apparently there is a small permanent exhibition inside including his running shoes from 1984, but unfortunately  the building was closed when I visited. 




Carlos Lopes Pavillion


Parque Eduardo VII

Getting to the highest point in Lisbon up by the castle does mean some serious step climbing - once again best earlier not just because of the heat but because heading up through the old town Alfama district means negotiating narrow streets which can get quite crowded, not to mention dodging trams. Easy to get lost but if you come up from the river front as long as you are going uphill you are going in approximately the right direction. Don't stress about losing your GPS signal amidst the alleyways, that's goes with the territory.

Above and below - climbing up through Alfama district








The Baixa district consists of a grid of parallel streets that is similar to London's West End, with lots of globally familiar high street shops. These are a godsend to runners before they get busy, fairly flat, some pedestrianised and with the buildings casting some shade. One morning I just ran up and down the grid.






The arch at the bottom of Rua Augusta in Baixa district
As I mentioned before you can get the train - for a mere 5 Euros or so return - out the to the various beaches to the west of Lisbon. In most cases the train stops right next to the beach. We went to Estoril a couple of times, where I had a run along the front followed by swim in the sea.


Estoril

Another great thing about Lisbon is that having burnt off some calories running you can treat yourself to some of the finest pastries. Of course you can get a Pastel de nata (Portuguese custard tart) in many British cafes now. But can you buy them from places where you can choose just how burnt you want the top?!


Conclusion - go to Lisbon, and pack your running shoes.



Some of my Lisbon runs on Strava -





Thursday, 17 August 2017

The road is a strange country - Rebecca Solnit

'In motion it seems that time is not slipping away from us but we are pursuing it, measuring its passage in the rhythm of the road... Perhaps if we didn’t imagine life as a journey rather than some other metamorphosis—the growth of a tree, for example—roads would not seem like destiny itself, but we do and they do. To move along the road is to encounter all the loose elements, the dangers and possibilities, to slip out of a settled destiny in pursuit of stranger fates. The road is a promise as simple as what lies ahead, never failed and never delivered, and the road is a strange country itself, longer than all the continents and narrow as a house, with its own citizens, its own rules, a place where the solid and settled become fluid'.

 'Roads are a no-man’s-land, a leveling ground, the place where one is no longer one thing and not yet another'

'Being in motion wakes the body up. In repose one is nothing but a surface face of potential sensation, only the surface, the skin, is awake. Exertion and pain make the rest tangible— otherwise bones and muscles and organs would be little but articles of faith beneath the visible and sensible surface of skin, and so one’s own interior anatomy may be among the things explored in the course of a journey’s exertions'



(Rebecca Solnit, A Book of Migrations, 1997 -  reflections on her travels across Ireland, including some timely thoughts on dubious notions of blood, soil and identity, and on the joys and otherwise of journeying. No running in the book, but lots of walking, and I thought her notion of the road as another country is something felt by runners, as is the experience  of getting to know our anatomy through motion and pain)

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Yoga for People Who Can't be Bothered to Do it

I've done a couple of yoga sessions this year, prompted by the fact that while I have a kind of elevated running mono-fitness I can sometimes barely move my body through any other range of motions. But the allure of flexibility has not been enough to keep me engaged and I feel very much like Geoff Dyer in his witty travelogue  'Yoga for People who Can't be Bothered to Do it' (2003). 

Recalling a stay at a sanctuary resort in Thailand, Dyer writes:

'I didn't even do yoga. I was practically the only person who didn't. A lot of people did yoga even when they weren't actually doing it. They were always stretching or bending or just sitting in quite demanding positions. Everyone had perfect posture and walked as though gravity were an option rather than a law. I wished I 'd been doing yoga for years - but I was incapable of starting...


'Kate had heard 'I was some kind of writer' and wondered what kind of things I wrote.


'I have an idea for a self help book' I said. 'Yoga for People Who Can't be Bothered to Do it'


'But you can't be bothered to write it, right?'


'You stole my punch line,' I said.


(I have seen this filed in a bookshop under heath and fitness, but it is definitely not any kind of manual!)

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Jodie Whittaker - from London Marathon to Dr Who





There's been a fair amount of nonsense over the last few weeks since it was announced that the next incarnation of Dr Who will be a woman, played by Jodie Whittaker. Not sure what the fuss is about,  if there can be a female Doctor of Medicine or Philosophy why on earth shouldn't there be a female Doctor of Time Travel in a somewhat rickety old children's science fiction series  in need of a new lick of paint - after 12 men have had a go. More to the point Jodie Whittaker does actually have a real superpower - she can run.


The power has been briefly glimpsed in Broadchurch, where she played the character of Beth over three series. In the most recent series her ex-husband tried to interrupt her seafront session with a deep conversation but she wasn't having it...






In real life, as Running is Funny reported a few years ago, Jodie ran 'the Robin Hood Half Marathon in 2004 and 2005, completing it in 2:23 and 2:13, respectively, then moved up in distance. She completed the 2007 New York City Marathon in 4:38', and ran the London Marathon in 2012 for Mencap, a British learning disability charity, finishing in 4:45:41.


Jodie Whittaker in 2012 London Marathon - running with Team Harry written on her arms. Jodie's nephew, Harry Whittaker, who had Downs Syndrome, died in 2014. He was an actor too, and appeared in Emmerdale.