The lapsed athlete

Just when you think the Great British Summer is drawing to an end it pulls out all the stops for one last week to show you exactly what you’ll be missing for the next nine months. It’s somewhat appropriate, then, that I should today be attending a friend’s tropical-themed birthday party to make the most of this final hoorah. Without wanting to be selfish, however, I must admit I’d rather like the temperature to be a fraction on the cooler side for next Sunday’s half marathon. The closer the event has got the more my training seems to have tailed off, so I need all the help I can get to avoid keeling over half way through.

I was reminiscing yesterday (over my second pint of cider) about how seriously I took training for my first sprint distance triathlon in 2009. So terrified was I of being unable to complete the race that I went cold turkey for a month beforehand, giving up booze and fags (these were in the days of my being a dirty smoker) completely. With the second sprint I was a little more relaxed with my regime, though when the Olympic distance triathlon came around I really knuckled down with the training to avoid full scale cardiac arrest half way around the course.

My first long distance run was the Whole Foods Market run in Kingston in March this year. At sixteen miles it was a serious challenge for someone who had previously never run further than ten kilometres. I trained hard and, fortunately, it paid off, as I don’t think I would have managed to get around the course in the freak weather conditions (zero degrees and snowing at the end of March? Really?) had I not been at the peak of my physical fitness.

This time around, however, I seem to have adopted a rather more laissez faire attitude. I’ve put the time in and roughly followed the same schedule as for the March run, but if circumstances (read: social commitments / pub) have made it difficult to fulfil every running obligation then I (literally) haven’t sweated over it. The only big run I’ve missed to date is the nine miler I was planning for today (see previous comment about ciders in the pub to understand why that hasn’t happened), but there’s always tomorrow, right? Or maybe the day after…?

athlete

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Brain freeze

Do you ever have days when your brain runs so slowly it feels like someone’s lopped the top off your head and poured in a truck load of cement? In my twenties such days could usually be attributed to hangovers and/or extreme lack of sleep, but now they seem to happen irrespective of my alcohol consumption and the quality of my nocturnal slumber the night before (which sometimes makes me wonder whether I might as well just get hammered and go to bed late anyway, but I digress…). The hypochondriac in me worries that this apparent decline in brain activity might actually be some form of early onset dementia, and that ten years from now I’ll be dribbling on myself in the corner of some nondescript nursing home, but the rational part of me says its most likely down to the typical state I seem to exist in that’s commonly known as TRYING TO DO TOO MANY THINGS AT THE SAME TIME.

Multi-tasking is not and never has been my friend, but that hasn’t stopped me trailing after it like some desperate, try-hard, hanger-on in the school playground. I should have accepted long ago that doing one thing at a time, in a linear fashion, is far more conducive to effectiveness – both in the work place and outside it – than trying to divide my attention across many. But the problem is that even when I try my hardest to focus on one thing, the others inevitably creep back into my peripheral consciousness – whether via emails, phone calls or people talking at me as I try my best to ignore them – and scupper the plan completely. Even writing today’s post has been a struggle, but now I have I think it’s time to accept the working week is over and have a well-earned drink.

frazzled

Letter to A.Chugger

Dear A.Chugger,

Though it breaks my heart to trample your enthusiasm (for which, I must admit, I do admire you) beneath the giant foot of my disinterest, I do believe it’s in your best interest in the long term. I’m guessing by your bright eyes and earnest expression this is new to you and you’ve yet to experience the crushing blow of multiple defeats. But soon I fear this house of cards you’ve built will come crashing down around you and the grim reality will wash over you like a tidal wave, drowning your hopes and aspirations in the torrent.

Let me paint you a picture of your typical client. A frazzled office worker, this person spends their days juggling so many metaphorical balls and treading so many deadline tightropes that they may as well be in the circus. On those rare and precious occasions that they are unshackled from their desks they like to float aloft their glorious daydreams of escape to tropical climes. When faced with the dreadlocked exuberance of youth in human form holding a clipboard, therefore, they are understandably reticent to engage in banter, no matter how jolly that banter might be.

The thing is this: We understand you’re raising money for the kids/dolphins/blind one eyed tree frogs, and it’s not that we’re cold-hearted bastards who don’t care a jot for the future of this planet we live on. It’s just that our time is short, and those of us who are of a philanthropic persuasion will mostly already be signed up to a two pound a month direct debit scheme to help our chosen cause. We are not, therefore, about to waste your time and effort by listening to you touting your cause.

I don’t mean to be cruel, you really do seem nice, but why not take that sunny disposition somewhere where it’s appreciated, before it gets ground out of you by the army of grim-faced commuters who pass by you, unseeingly, each day? Put your clipboard down, son, and get a job on the frontline of Greenpeace, if you must, or maybe in a bar in Ibiza or a theatre school in west London? The world is your Oyster, so step aside and let us Oyster card holders be.

Yours,

A.Commuter

Near miss

I’ve just looked at the time and realised to my horror that I haven’t written my blog post today. In truth I’ve been so busy with work, popping in to a friend’s birthday drinks, running club, cooking dinner, planning an exciting holiday (more on that later) and watching Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason (I know, I know, not a good reason for nearly failing my daily writing challenge after nearly nine successful months of posting every day) it clean slipped my mind. But at least I’ve remembered before all was lost. Do I redeem myself in any way by saying I’ve almost finished a 2,500 word submission to a short story competition that’s due on Friday, the content of which is of a far higher calibre than any of the rubbish I’ve been churning out on this blog for the past few days? I thought not. In which case I shall simply have to try harder over the coming days to regain your trust – consider my wrists virtually slapped.

So about this holiday…It’s taking rather a lot of my waking attention at the moment as it’s just about the most exciting thing I’ve planned for a long time, besides the amazing travels of 2011, that is. I don’t want to say much more at the moment for fear of jinxing it, but suffice to say my hope is for a mini travelling adventure that will get the creative juices flowing faster and more furiously than ever. Watch this space…

Return of the domestic goddess

Love it or hate it, we all turn into grown-ups in the end and today I think I may have officially made the transition. Why? Because today, instead of having a long lie in and spending the day loafing around in my pyjamas watching old episodes of Don’t Tell The Bride (don’t judge me) and eating Hagen Dazs out of the tub, I was up at 9am to clean the flat from top to bottom before heading to a dentist appointment, returning some time later with a bag full of ingredients for a slow cooked lamb tagine. I also stopped off at the hardware store on the way home to purchase a new draining rack, a soap dish and a pair of tea towels. And, if the garden shop on the high street hadn’t had such a pathetic selection of stock I might have brought back a plant or two for the flat – dare I say even herbs in a window box? What has become of me?

There’s probably no cause to worry just yet that my youth has finally forsaken me. Rather, this is the yin and yang principle at work again, redressing nature’s fragile balance after a couple of days of hedonistic fun at Carnival. And, being completely honest, Don’t Tell The Bride and a grab bag of roast beef flavoured Monster Munch *may* have featured somewhere on today’s itinerary…What can I say? Whether young or old, old habits die hard.

Carnival

ImageEvery year it amazes me that the Notting Hill carnival is allowed to take place, given the sheer amount of detritus it leaves in its wake. But it’s testament to the spirit of this glorious city that it does go ahead, and that it’s managed so well and enjoyed by so many. This year I went on both days, spending most of Sunday at the appropriately named Good Times bus and today at the Red Bull sound system under the Westway in Portobello. The latter was a private party I was lucky enough to win tickets to in a public ballot along with 999 other people (out of 19,000 who applied, or so someone I met this afternoon informed me). With a stellar line up of djs and a free bar from midday to 7pm it was always going to be an awesome party, and so it was, despite the fact we were feeling a touch jaded after yesterday’s frivolities. Right now I’m feeling like I’ve had a bit too much fun this weekend, but I’m sure I’ll do it all over again next year. Let the good times (bus) roll…

Sunday, 9am

It’s 9am on Sunday morning and my feet are already pounding the pavement. It wasn’t easy getting out here, but now I am I’m revelling in the coolness of the air, the absence of cars and other people. I run on through the concrete jungle, noting all the signs of last night’s excesses; a used condom outside a pub, a pool of vomit by a telephone box. The perpetrators of these crimes are long gone, most likely now lying in a bed that isn’t their own beneath a blanket of self-loathing. One group of young adults are still partying on a rooftop, cans of lager clasped in their hands, teetering on the brink.

I run onto the common, relishing the green space even though it’s flanked on all sides by road. There was a festival here last night and there’s still a trace of sweat and booze and hot dogs in the air. Men in orange jackets clear the remnants as occasional dog walkers and clusters of military fitness groups pass by. Everyone is resolute and unswerving in their purpose, like worker bees. I take a lungful of damp air and look up at the grey sky overhead. My feet splash through puddles, catapulting splodges of mud onto my calves.

I run on.