Category Archives: Running

Fallen Arches & Frankel

If you look at the word fallen for too long it looks odd, like we should pronounce it with a short ‘a’ sound like in cat.

And I suppose one automatically thinks of feet when thinking of fallen arches. That’s fair enough, apparently twenty-five percent of the American population suffer from them. In some African countries though, it’s a rare phenomenon, that scientists link to the wearing of shoes (bad) not wearing shoes (good). Shoes with arch support paradoxically allow your arches to simply collapse; rather like what happens to one’s middle if you never wear a pencil skirt beyond the age of sixteen and have no need to hold your stomach in…

When I was reading all this about fallen arches, I started getting other imagery coming through.

Destroyed ancient cities with marbled smashed arches crashed to the ground
The broken rainbow I saw last Saturday with the high arc section of its arch missing
A day when the golden arches of McDonalds are a forgotten brand of yesteryear
The American racehorse who was not quite out of the top drawer
Triumphal city architecture to make us shudder
Those unnecessarily sharp comments that we live to regret

And so on.

Saturday is a quiet day for blogging and I imagine there are not many that will read this post so I will also allow myself a fallen arch of narrative thread.

Frankel is due to make his last appearance at Ascot today, but connections report some slight concern about the state of the going. It is currently: soft, heavy in places. He may make a late withdrawal on account of it. I know some people who are going, people who will be devastated if the greatest horse most of us have ever seen is taken out of the race. My own heart prefers that we do not run our national treasure if the ground will be more than a minor inconvenience.

We do not want any fallen arches for the beloved Frankel. It will be an anxious wait.

The fallen arches of a double rainbow, Pawnee Grasslands, Colorado

Original image can be seen here

Arc Day Dawns

My heart has been broken on a racecourse, more than once in fact, and after a while I just couldn’t take it any longer, so I took a break from the turf.  I’ve only kept an eye on proceedings because of the wonder horse Frankel who I saw hack up at the Dewhurst nearly two years ago now.  Frankel moves the heart and soul like very few other horses do, but I confess there have been a few .  I won’t name them now.  Those who know me might remember some of them.  Probably they won’t.  It doesn’t matter – no need to make the heart hurt more than it needs to on a sunny October morning.

All that’s a rather long way of saying, today, I logged into one of my long idle gambling acounts.  One has been run down to a balance of zero thanks to ‘inactive adminstrative fees’.  Because it costs you money to be my bank Mr Ladbroke?  Another remains intact with a sum in the magnificence of eleven pence.  Still, Paddy Power has at least left the paltry amount in my name, rather than helping himself to it in disgust at my giving up the gambling life.

It turns out I am not ready to place a bet.  I think I will close the accounts.  I have others elsewhere, but I can’t remember who with, or indeed the log-ins.  I have a vague idea that there is some money in one of them, somewhere.  I was thinking I might have a bet on Meandre today, but the ground has gone in Longchamp and it will not be coming back in time for this afternoon’s race.  Even worse, I find I do not care who wins the Arc.  What is wrong with me?  It only seems like yesterday I ran the Southend 10K on Arc Day morning and then watched  when Sea the Stars confirmed his place in the glittering firmament later that afternoon.  It seems like yesterday, but in truth it is three whole years ago.   The further truth is that I don’t run any more and I don’t go racing.

Where has the time gone?

Where are all the horses that used to live in my head?

It’s all a blur

‘Apples and Pineapples’

This was the description Paralympian sprinter Jerome Singleton used to compare the current arrangements for races between single amputees, like himself, and double amputees like Oscar Pistorius and Alan Oliveira, the man who beat Pistorius earlier this week.

Jerome Singleton is not only an elite athlete who competes in the T44 100m final tomorrow night, he is also a NASA scientist, so I tend to think he knows what he is talking about. He is not the only athlete to think that the rules need tightening up.

Whole article can be read here

Several of the runners said Wednesday that while Pistorius’s comments were ill-timed, they supported his point that the IPC needs to re-evaluate and tighten the formula in the interest of fairness.

Singleton, a single leg amputee, even suggested that IPC should perhaps run races for two classes, the T44s like himself, and the T43s like Pistorius, Oliveira and Leeper. Of the 20 athletes that raced the heats, only five were double-leg amputees and three of them qualified for the final.

“The classes need to be split,” said Singleton, who upset Pistorius in the 100 metres at the 2011 world championships. “It’s not apples to apples, it’s like apples to pineapples right now. If they want to keep us together, they need to re-evaluate that formula.”

“We need to have an idea of the exact height for an athlete to run in, and maybe have a variation of like one centimetre, so you know you’re racing the same athlete in all competitions. Single-leg amputees, we don’t have too much maneouvring when it comes to height.”

“As time changes, science changes, so we have to make sure it’s fair to all competitors.”

Single-leg amputee Alister McQueen of Calgary, who ran a disappointing 12.02 and failed to qualify for the final, agreed with Singleton that the formula needs to be changed.

“With the formula they use, they’re just not proportional,” he said. “Every person running here is not breaking any rules, they’re not doing anything wrong. It’s just that the rules leave such a wide vary of what they can do with their prosthetics. If they do tighten it up to where it makes more sense, I don’t think they’ll need to split up the classes.

“It’s one of the most exciting races in the Paralympics and we don’t want to get away from that. We just want to even up the field.”

Leaving the apples and pineapples debate aside, the T44 100m final tomorrow evening is going to be huge. Going into it, the British contender Jonnie Peacock is the faster qualifier; running a time today of 11.08 seconds that equalled the existing Paralympic record. That time is a shade short of his own world record of 10.85, set earlier this summer and this evening he was running into a strong headwind…

Tomorrow’s final has all the right ingredients for an unmissable race. A strong start is going to be key and that may be to Peacock’s advantage. We’ll see.

Unbelievably, I have read there is no mainstream coverage of the event in the USA? Is this really the case? A real missed opportunity if it is and one that should be rectified for the future.

Copyright: The Sun
Between Oscar and Jonnie?
Or will Jerome have something to say about that

Oscar Pistorius #Bladegate

In case you’ve been on Mars for the last 24 hours, #Bladegate refers to the T44 category 200m final at the Paralympics last night, where Pistorius was narrowly beaten into second place by the Brazilian athlete Alan Oliveira.

Pistorius was not expecting to be beaten. Once into the home straight he was in splendid isolation with only the wind for company… until the last 10 metres. Oliveira came roaring up the outside to take the gold medal on the line.

Pistorius then complained during his immediate post-race interview that Oliveira’s blades were too long, giving him an unfair advantage. Then all hell broke loose: #Bladegate.

There are so many layers to unpick in this affair that it is fascinating. Firstly though, I think that it is important to note that Pistorius has had to fight his way in the world to get where he is and when someone is in that mindset any emotional reaction is likely to initially present as anger. This has led to the accusation that Pistorius is a ‘bad loser’. I don’t think that’s entirely fair. In the tv interview he clearly spoke from a heart that had just been more than a little bit broken, and our hearts are not always rational. If a ‘good loser’ constitutes someone who can smile while inside they are dying, plus feeling strongly that something is unfair, I would wonder about the honesty and integrity of that.

Still, Pistorius’s remarks were clearly mistimed and made in the heat of the moment; by this morning his head was in back in charge and he made a more measured statement. He still maintained his concern about the fairness of the blades used by his conqueror in the race in his conclusion, saying:

I do believe that there is an issue here and I welcome the opportunity to discuss with the IPC but I accept that raising these concerns immediately as I stepped off the track was wrong. I am a proud Paralympian and believe in the fairness of sport. I am happy to work with the IPC who obviously share these aims.

The International Paralympic Committee, who govern the Paralympic Games have just issued their own statement saying that they will not only meet with Pistorius, but that the immediate aftermath of the Paralympics is as good a time as any to revisit the rule book…

I have read some absolutely fantastic analysis of both sides of the argument. Here Channel 4 News FactCheck examine the evidence and their verdict is that Pistorious shouldn’t complain. Then I looked at *whispers* *hides face* this Daily Mail piece who point out that Oliveira did decide to change his blades to longer ones in the last 3 weeks, and that while these remain legal under the existing rules, last night he ran under 22 seconds (21.45 sec) for the first time competitively, on these new blades that boost his racing height by 5 cm. Coincidence?

The longer blades do cause athletes to have a slower start, Oliveira was left standing when the gun went off last night and was racing well in arrears, but down the straight the longer blades store more elastic energy allowing the athlete to maintain speed whilst using less energy than someone on shorter ones, like Pistorius. This is basically what we saw last night, but we also saw an optical illusion which someone who watches horse racing regularly will recognise – that of an athlete (or horse), out front, coming back to the field. In high class races, where everyone is performing to their optimum ability, this slight slowing in front is entirely imperceptible, you can only see the others appearing to accelerate. In these instances, only fractional times can tell the whole story. There aren’t many fractional times for a 200m sprint, but it is reported that Pistorius ran a much quicker first 100m than the second 100m. For Oliveira, with the slow start, it was the reverse.

This is probably because the longer blades do give you an advantage in the straight, but this offset by running more slowly at the start and whilst runnning the bend. It’s down to the athlete which tactics they want to employ. Oliveira and his team, by switching to the longer blades only three weeks ago, took a gamble. It paid off, just. Pistorius’s gamble was running a very fast half of the race, he then paid for attacking the first 100m by having to slow down a bit in the closing stages. His gamble did not pay off, but again, it was so close. This would have only made it worse from his point of view.

Pistorius raced on the blades he ran on in the Olympics. Under the rule book he too could go for longer blades – his maximum permitted height on racing blades, as things stand, would take him to 193 cm tall. His current blades means he stands 184 cm. He could add an extra 9 cm to his height and this would mean if Oliveira stuck with his current prostheses at 181 cm, Pistorius could gain a 12 cm height advantage over his rival. Of course, it is not standing taller that necessarily gives the advantage, it is the longer blade being used, and that advantage has to be traded off against the slower start.

I can’t help wondering, in the battle of the double-bladed runners like Pistorius, Oliveira and Richard Whitehead, where this leaves those athletes with one of their own legs and one blade. Is the leg the limiting factor to their performance? Still, I can see where Pistorius was coming from. Basically, his rival gained 5cm more of blade runner and considerably improved his performance. This might have happened anyway. I think it is fair enough for him to request that a cause and effect scenario be ruled out.

The current rules also seem to allow for a huge differential in blade lengths – after all Pistorius could legally add up to 9 cm to his racing blades. He might regret not switching to longer blades in the Paralympics now, but as an athlete who has battled so hard to prove that his blades do not give him a mechanical advantage over a non-Paralympic athlete you can see why he stuck with his Olympic-approved ones.

I suppose what will happen now is that we will thankfully continue to be astounded by the performances of all the Paralympians and this controversy will die down. The IPC will then meet behind closed doors and I’d take a short price about them severely reducing the range of centimetres you can add to your blades prior to a competition. I’m not a physicist, but it is probably possible to work out a set of equations for the energy stored in each millimetre of blade, depending on the materials used in its manufacture and the allowances for weight and speed etc. The trouble is that the science on the ‘blade runners’ so far is ‘inconclusive’ and for these athletes, who train to their physical limits and spend years preparing for events like this, that simply won’t do.

copyright Metro



I constantly spelled Oscar Pistorius as ‘Pistorious’ in the drafts. I hope I’ve got rid of all the misspelling, apologies if not. I think it is because, in my mind, it should follow the -ious suffix rule e.g. imperious, notorious…

Becoming Sitzfleisch

Perfect for slipping out the back door

Sitzfleisch being a useful German word I am aiming for on a Tuesday, the day when I spend a long time in my seat at Anglia Ruskin University trying to concentrate all afternoon. Literally translated sitzfleisch is seat meat, which might even sound better? Anyway the wider meaning of sitzfleisch is to do with an ability to endure and concentrate for long periods whilst seated.

So, even though I am a slab of prime sitzfleisch laid out in Room 103 (too close to 101 for comfort?), I have never actually achieved the aspirational state of seated endurance. I always sit near the door so I can escape without explanation outside the permitted break time, a habit which mirrors much of my school career, although I usually left the classroom before I actually arrived back in the day…

One time I was cross with my “table” in primary school, so I just got up, walked out of the class and walked home, admittedly only round the corner. Once I there I was locked out so I did the obvious thing and hid behind the woodpile. As you do.

The French have a phrase for that kind of behaviour too: Plus ça change (plus c’est la même chose).

10K

Not ten grand (I wish). I am talking about 6.25 miles. I tackled the distance for the first time in over a year yesterday. Quietly, on my own, without a timing device tied to my shoelace. I was making a comeback you see and I didn’t want any hoo-haa. Let’s just say I’ll come on for the run. The achievement was that the distance was covered in a fashion, without walking.

If I pull out sound tomorrow, I’ll be in business for an official timed run next weekend in London, but at this point I’ll just be grateful when my joints stop aching. Running on tarmac is not my favourite thing.

The benefit of running along the sea-front is that I know my distances and there is plenty to distract a beetroot-faced plodalong like me. Normally I have the dog, but he is turning into a stop-starting device off-lead and on the lead he and I just look like an odd couple.

A much better matched pair are these superheroes who I passed on my sprint finish to the parking meter so I could check my time.

After all, The Only Way is Essex.

Why walking a lurcher is bad for your shoulders

My shoulders to be more accurate. You see I have been stepping the old training programme for the Southend 10K which is in but a few short weeks. When I say stepping up, it is really stepping it up from a baseline of zero which is in part due to holidays, but also because of a set of impediments to overcome which included two knackered knees. So this week, most mornings before work, I have been trotting about in my New Balance trainers (none of my own obviously) with the dog (two birds one stone, multi-tasking, time is money, lunch is for wimps etc. etc.).

Looks like there’s a sudden outbreak of parentheses there doesn’t there? Well that’s because I slipped into running mode and when you are engaged in that activity thinking tends to take on a parenthetical aspect. (Sorry if I just made that word up.)

It goes thus: I am thinking at the front of my brain “Ah yes only fifteen days to go to the 10K. With a positive attitude and a few more sessions like this I’ll be well on target for breaking the makemeadiva PB set last year.” And then that other voice chimes in (Yeah right, you’ll be lucky if you manage to break out of a walk. Remember last year when the blind runner ran right past you? Muppet.) So on I go. Positive mental attitude being dragged down by bracketed rudeness and general undermining.

Back on track. The dog accompanies me. And most of this week I have been wondering (not in brackets) why at least one shoulder is so damn stiff and my legs are fine. Is my upper body running action excessive? It took me about four days to work it out. Now you see the etymology of the word lurcher is purported to be from the Roma word lur which means thief. But having owned a few dogs I would say thief is probably a fairly general term for most dogs (except perhaps for those toy breeds that don’t have secret rope ladders to compensate for their lack of stature). Rudi read the page in the manual on thieving, but he has elected to take his breed name quite literally.

I am a lurcher therefore I lurch.

On all walks I will lurch suddenly across the path of my handler at cats and squirrels wrenching her shoulders nearly out of their sockets. It’s in the job description. There’s probably a song that he sings too.

I lurch all night and I lurch all day, the people round here they all do say….

That’s to the tune of “There’s a worm at the bottom of the garden”.

My musical response is this. Bear in mind I am now going to work, my shoulder hurts and that flipping happy as larry lurcher is lazing on my bed as I type. Probably on my pillow, even though I hid it. Happy Friday.

Blog Backlog, but Plaster Power wins the day

Even on 40 year old knees…

I have a few posts I have been meaning to do:

Blind Sex Pest Goldfish Seeks New Chaste Home
No Cardigans with Maxi Dresses SamCam
“Progressivity” ain’t a word George (Gideon) Osborne
Exactly Wot is this “Recycled” Money of which you speak Health Man?
Premier League Football starts: the World’s mouth gapes

But today I will share instead how I came to be dressing my wounds in Betfred’s shop circa 19.43 yesterday evening, whilst Elhamri broke out of the stalls and galloped down the course, delaying the start of the 19.45 at Windsor (which is a ridiculous figure of eight course) wherein I had backed Imaginary Diva (on good advice) who eventually placed third (8/1 e/w = a minor contribution to dinner).

See the thing is, I can see how I might improve my aesthetics to comply with diva criteria, but mostly I can’t quite pull it all together. Take yesterday. I was enjoying wearing a dress, for once. Normally skirts and wotnot are a bit tricky because I am always getting into scrapes: bashing myself with my wicked sharp metal bike pedals leaving bruises and cuts on my shins, getting scratched by the dog on his regular leg tangles when a cat is in sight and bashing myself on assorted fixtures and fittings. There are probably about ten days a year when my legs are fit for public consumption. Anyway yesterday was one such. I had on a nice French black linen shift dress and had added a Minnie Mouse red and white spotted silk necktie. My footwear was not flip-flops! I had received compliments and I was looking forward to popping it back on and going out for supper after my run. let’s also gloss over the bare facts that although my legs were on good form, my arms looked like I had been self-harming (iron burn and drinking blister), but you can never have it all you know.

At about 18.15 I popped out for a quick run with the dog and my friend (leaving starving Guv’nor on the sofa urging speed which was fine because I am trying to effect a faster pace anyway). I suppose the rest doesn’t take much figuring out and my dignity would probably preclude a detailed account of painfully going down (like a sack of shit). Suffice to say the material ingredients of my downfall included running with the dog on the lead, a dodgy drain and uneven concrete. Not paying full attention was certainly a factor. Going for a run is meant to induce a meditative scenario and I was anything but. I was still in my head and not in my body so my body took a big fall to remind me of my failings.

Notwithstanding the humiliation, I did not cry and we did a bit more limping/running but once home I had to jump in the shower where much stinging commenced. We have at home child knee-sized plasters but I needed one the size of a saucer so I had to go to the shop and get the necessary (plus antiseptic anaesthetic cream) which I liberally applied in the bookmakers. I thought that would be a bit more health and safety than in the restaurant (where an even more starving Guv’nor was now waiting) and would be killing two birds with one stone which is always a good thing isn’t it?

This morning, in addition to the arm injuries, I now have one well smashed up knee, a scraped one and a slightly unhappy, but much recovered pair of palms. Ho hum. That’s blown dresses until 2011.

A Man about a Dog (and a Dog with a Mac)

On Saturday as Rudi and I undertook our mince through the mud at dusk we passed a man on the other side of a garden fence.  He was an Irish fella working on a house near where I let Rudi off to run.  He asked me what manner of beast he was and asked if he was for sale.  He also enquired if Rudi could catch a rabbit.  I shared the guilty squirrel secret and went on my way, thinking he might be a bit touched to be truthful.

On the way back the man was waiting for us, on the pavement this time, with his son and his own dog – a Saluki bitch called Abby.  This time he wanted to know if I wanted to race his dog (not me, Rudi!).  As it was near pitch-black and Rudi was a bit tired from chasing a tennis ball I demurred.  We had a bit of a chat and it turned out his bitch was a champion hare-courser (illegal) and he had bought her for thousands.  He asked a lot of questions about Rudi, said he looked big and fit, and seemed pleased enough when he found out he was an Irish lurcher.  Of course I would not sell my dog, but if M25 Man had been on the end of the lead it would have been a different story that day!

It would have been nice to let them run; I would have offered yer man a match bet that Rudi would outpace his!  The only dog that has ever outrun mine was a recently retired male greyhound.  Rudi didn’t know what to do when that happened. 

I reckon he could catch a few rabbits, but I don’t care to find out.  Explaining dead furry things to children is not easy. 

Rudi poses near Roots Hall Stadium

A Great

There were more Arc “signs” this morning.  I ran the Southend 10K (I use the term ran loosely, although I can assure you I never broke into the gait known as a walk) and my number started with 6.  Aside from the confirmation signs of what I already believed to be true, there were three strong signs Chelsea would prevail at Stamford Bridge, which I took to heart after the Black Cats stuck it to Man U yesterday.

I am not a very good runner but I stick to my guns and get home.  I am not good at switching off during a race, I don’t train properly and I am no judge of pace.  It is therefore necessary to talk myself round and out of various mindsets I get into over the course of an hour.  On the homeward run my mind became a little querulous, so I came up with one of my mad mantras to avoid excessive focus on any incipient aches and pains.  The mantra went

“Sea The Stars, (Supaseus), easy, easy, easy.”

Let me state quite clearly here and now, I am not actually mad.  I do not pretend to be a horse galloping along the seafront!  I just enjoyed the imagery and rhythm of the mantra and it stopped my mind from stopping my legs.  Now I have the image of Sea The Stars actual run today at Longchamp burned in to my brain, hopefully for replay many times in my life.

We had to head back to London to collect the children after the run, anxious as I was to be somewhere and not on the road at 3.15.  It was cut a bit fine in the end (thanks once again M25 junctions 28-27).  To distract myself from getting too worked up about the race, I got exceedingly worked up about the scoreline in the Arsenal game (when it was 3-2) and said some rude things about their defence to the driver.  Of course, I retract partially since they went on to score 3 more, but still there is always a price to be paid for expansive and beautiful football.  I expect Viera will sort it all out on his return.

So racing past the Olympic village with my stomach lurching like I was on a roller coaster with nerves, we made it to a television in time.  I couldn’t bear to watch a minute’s preamble and only went near enough the set to be considered a televisual participant once the runners were  loaded.  Prowling round in the hall, with my stomach on a rollercoaster whilst being tied in knots by an enthusiastic sailor I swore I would be contained…

I was contained when they broke and the pacemaker eventually shot off, I was still so when Sea The Stars started fighting for his head to go in pursuit.  I was contained in my despair shortly afterwards whilst Sea The Stars had got buried deep for cover but agonisingly shuffled back to boot.  Then he seemed to muscle his way into a debatable gap and my nose was nearly on the screen.  Just before he shot out from the pack I was screaming.

As he emerged to hit the front, I grabbed the youngest (at 5 still a grabbable size) and commanded her to look at the “best we have ever seen”.  Repeatedly and quite a lot loudly too.  My family are used to this from time to time so no permanent psychological damage was done (I hope!).  The seconds where Sea The Stars was clear in front and it was evident nothing was coming to him were some of the best seconds I have known in my life.  Not because I had the house on him (I didn’t), but because he was bringing home an incomparable first in flat racing.  He was delivering on a dream.  It’s my belief, in that moment, he let us beggars ride with him.

The peerless Sea The Stars in front in the Arc

The peerless Sea The Stars in front in the Arc