“I hope you’re not doing too much running!” says my Mother, as soon as I pop my head into the kitchen. No ‘hello’ or ‘how are you’; just straight to the point. My Mum’s good at getting straight to the point. I suppose it’s an English thing. My Mum also reads this blog, so perhaps I’ll say no more.
The comment was in relation to my last blog post. As I assured her that all was well, and that this would be my last stab at a decent marathon time, I realised (too late!) as I wandered back across the garden to our house, that I had written something about the programme ‘kicking the shit out of me’.
It might be worth mentioning at this point, if you’ve dropped into this blog unawares, that the programme I refer to is a 3.30 marathon training plan that I have just started. A decent marathon time for me would be anything around four hours, and that I am currently 54 and will be 55 when I attempt the run. My Mum’s probably right. She usually is.
So, Week 1 has officially come to an end. We came slightly off the rails (well, ‘wobbled’ might be a better description), when the beeper went off on Day 2, when I was due to do 5 miles of intervals. About halfway through the ordeal, the alerter sounded, and I had to hotfoot it back to the station. My 5 miles of intervals turned into a short session of speed work. But apart from that minor glitch, the rest of the week passed unmolested. That said, it’s early doors, obviously. Today’s run, for example, called for 8 miles ‘easy’. For me, up to now, easy running meant running a kilometre every six minutes. That’s a mile every 9 minutes and 40 seconds. Or a 5k in half an hour. It’s a modest pace, and I have found it to be a good one for long runs. This is a whole new ball game. Each mile in 9 minutes flat. Even getting my head around the pace has been tricky.
I note from Garmin that the run clocked in at 1.11:44, which is impressive when you consider I needed to get it done in 72 minutes (yes, that would be 1 hour and 12 minutes). But this was more pot luck than anything. The 9-minute mile pace seems alien to my legs, and I found myself yo-yoing between 8.30 and even 9.30 at times. I have also made the amateur error of taking a sneak peek at what lies ahead in the plan, and now I think I had better have a little lie down…
Yesterday morning’s hill session found me in the park, actively seeking out the inclines I normally try and avoid. The little passage under the beech canopy after the first hill is always a delight at any time of year. Perhaps the best month is when the fresh young leaves appear and the impossible-to-capture light* underneath is filtered through a delicate lime-green gauze.
By the time the high Summer arrives – if you are lucky to get some hot days – the leaf cover has all but closed in, and this finest of suffusions has been replaced with welcome shade. Woodland flowers have done their thing, and we runners breeze through, often without a second thought.
But as I passed by the weir and sluice on the Liffey, I had that annual sensation that catches me out every time. It is the sudden feeling that you are being followed closely by the nimblest of axe-murderers. An almost imperceptible ‘whoosh’. It stops when you stop. It speeds up when you speed up. It really only takes the gentlest of nudges from a neurotic mind to visualize the recently-honed blade arcing down towards your skull. Until you realise it’s just the first flush of fallen beech leaves getting pulled into your wake, rattling along in the entrained air, skiffing over the grit of the path…
Needless to say, it’s a lot more fun when it’s pitch black, and you only have a head torch.
And so, tomorrow marks the end of the longest chapter in British Royal history, when Queen Elizabeth II is laid to rest. In fairness, she must have been banjoed, working right up to the very end. Shame that her last engagement had to be as witness to the installation of another feckin’ eejit into the role of Prime Minister. But that’s the gig. She saw quite a few in her time.
Of course, there have been some wicked jibes online, amongst the official period of mourning. Some wit has dubbed the BBC ‘Mourn Hub’. And indeed, it is blanket coverage of the event. And if you were in any doubt about whether the English love a good old queue, then bear witness to the queue to end all queues as half the nation descended on London and spent, in some cases, over 24 hours waiting in line to file past Her Majesty (You get about 14 seconds to nod solemnly before you are ushered out the other side). The coffin is also closed (which sits atop a catafalque. This is a new word to many, but worth pointing out to smart arses that the catafalque is just the support for the coffin; it’s not actually a posh word for casket, as some would have you believe). Closed, because I am sure Her Maj had no wish to try and emulate those Cold-War heroes of the Iron Curtain, despite outliving them all, and bare all in a glass box.
Queen Lizzy the First would have had you thrown into the Tower of London for the sorts of gags that have been doing the rounds in the last week or so. But as with all good comedy, if it’s funny, well, it’s funny. Here is my favourite tweet:
And some of the replies are also hilarious.
Of course, there are those that have taken this whole thing rather seriously. I think it’s only natural that many would wish to pay their respects. That they would choose to wait up to 30 hours in the cold to do so shows how much affection they had for their queen. Those readers from countries without a monarchy need only replace ‘queen’ with ‘head of state’ and you are at the same spot. For us in Ireland, that would be our president, Michael D Higgins. And having had the pleasure and honour of meeting the man, I would definitely feel inclined to want to show my respects for his service. Would that equate to 30 hours outdoors in a slowly-moving queue? Hard to say, but then, some of my long runs take that long, and tend to finish up that way, at the same funereal pace, so why not? 😉
Yesterday, we drove down to Wexford for the anniversary mass for our dear friend, Ciaran. There was a great gathering of family and friends on hand, and as he would have wanted, plenty of good food to be had, and quite a few toasts raised in his name.
And of course, life goes on. The English (mostly) miss their monarch. We miss our mate.
* If it’s ‘impossible to capture’ things you are after, then read Heaney’s poem. It’s here in the link.