A couple of weekends ago I took part in the York 10 mile race. This was run alongside the Yorkshire Marathon. As you know a marathon is 26 miles (26.2 to be precise, why someone added an extra 0.2 is beyond me, was 26 not enough?) When you look at it in that context, 10 miles doesn’t seem far. If someone said lets go shopping, you’d jump in the car and happily drive off ten miles without thinking twice.
Well I can tell you now, covering ten miles on foot is definitely something to think twice about. In fact you should think three and four times about it, ideally whilst sat in front of the television with a glass of red so you are not tempted to think it’s a good idea. I never really thought it was a good idea, I just didn’t appreciate what a bad one it was. One friend suggested we sign up to do it. I then mentioned it to another friend who was already signed up. He said maybe I would need to train more and should wait until next year. Well that was a stupid thing to say, as obviously I jumped on my high horse and signed up straight away.
The training went quite well. I completed some nice long runs, in fact at one point I ran from pluto to the sun* So I turned up on the day confident I would complete it in my target time of 2 hours. As always before I signed up I checked the results from last year. I’m a very slow runner, but as long as I’m not going to be last then I’m happy to give it a go. Therefore with some 3 hour runners at previous events I was confident I’d be as usual in the middle average.
Of course when looking at previous results I’d concentrated on the slowest people without realising that there was still going to be a rather large number of fast people doing it. I don’t mind getting overtaken by speedy professional looking runners. That’s just part and parcel of being a bit of a fairweather jogger. However when you suddenly realise that you are actually being passed by Zippy and Bungle from Rainbow you do start to think it might be time to hang up the trainers. Luckily one of the best things about these runs is the constant supply of sweets that the kindly spectators are giving out as you drag yourself round. The man in the batman suit might have finished way ahead of me, but I bet I enjoyed my jelly babies more than him.
The thing with this kind of event though is that as soon as you reach the finish line you forget everything. You forget about the fact that at the half way point you were ready to sit down and wait for a taxi. You forget about the fact that your face is that red you are stopping traffic as you go past. You forget about the fact your toenails will probably never be the same again. As soon as you get your finish time, which in my case was a very respectable 1 hour 44 minutes, you forget what a stupid idea trying to run 10 miles actually is. In fact once you are actually able to walk again you think, what’s my next challenge going to be all pain forgotten. One thing for certain though is I won’t be doing a marathon. 26 miles ok maybe, but 26.2, that’s just silly.
*York Solar System Cycle Path obviously!
When I’m out walking or running I like to listen to books. My latest ‘listen to’ audiobook has been Splinter the Silence by Val McDermid. As with all of her novels this is a great book. It even includes a character called Tamsin which I like to think she has named after my sister having seen her name on one of the numerous yellow post it notes that follow us round at the Theakston’s Old Peculiar Crime Writers Festival. One of the discussions between characters in Splinter the Silence is about the best way to follow people without being detected. Apparently when tailing someone it is best to always stay in front of the person and work out where they are going next.
Well the other day whilst out for a jog I thought I’d try this out, as the The Chopper appeared just as I was leaving my house. For years I’ve been watching this man walking up and down the street with a walking stick in one hand and a carrier bag in the other wondering where he is going. Therefore I decided to follow him to find out once and for all where he buries the bodies. We live next door to a small moor and field so there are plenty of places he could use but it is surrounded on all sides by streets and houses so I thought I’d easily track him.
As he set off slowly walking I jogged past the Chopper then stopped to tie my shoelace whilst surreptitiously watching which way he went. He went left so I ran straight on over the moor, coming out at the end of the road in front of him. Next he went right, not towards the shops as one would expect for someone carrying a shopping bag but heading as though to go out on the moor. I took off again this time along the path, ready to cut onto the moor. I turned the corner and saw him in front. Yet rather than turn he suddenly changed direction, heading along the path besides the field. I doubled back on myself and got behind him, as he took a swift last minute right turn away from the fields.
I was determined not to lose him. I’m out for a run after all, so how hard can it be to keep up with an old man with a walking stick. By this stage it was safe to say I may have been spotted (the fluorescent stripes down the side of my jacket were not doing me any favours here) but suddenly out of nowhere as I approach the entrance to the Moor, he appears on the other side of the gate. Skidding to a halt we are eyeball to eyeball. Now would be a good time for me to just simply say hello and run off, pretending I wasn’t following him after all. Yet I can’t do that, I’m on a mission.
He heads off again this time down the street towards the shops. Now in danger of losing him I speed up and cut through some houses to meet him at the other side. Just as he came into sight he turned again, this time heading back towards the moor. I took off back on myself towards the same Moor. But suddenly he’s disappeared. I know I’m a very slow runner, but how on earth can I be outrun by an old man with a walking stick?
I carried on for a few minutes but he had completely vanished. Heading home I rounded the corner and there he was. Seemingly just leaving his house and going shopping. Unless there are some secret passages I’m not aware of I have no idea how he managed to give me the slip and make it back so quickly. I’m beginning to think the Apple Drive body disposal gang goes further than first thought. I refuse to be beaten though and am going to try again, although next time I might have to ditch the fluorescent running jacket.
This year at the Theakston’s Old Peculier Crime Writers Festival Eddie Izzard was special guest. Whilst his link to crime writing might have been tenuous (he is friends with Mark Billingham and appears in the TV version of Hannibal) he turned out to be really interesting and quite inspiring. One of the things that he says is that he tries to learn a new skill every year which I think is something to aspire to. His examples included running 43 marathons in 43 days and learning Arabic so he can give his stand up routine in the language.
Last year I started horse riding again after a gap of approximately 20 (and a bit!) years. As a child I spent most of my time mucking out and going out hacking round the fields rather than actually learning properly. This time round it is all a bit more serious and I’m actually learning how to ride properly. The past couple of weeks have been very exciting as I’ve been learning to jump. Admittedly I suspect people would say I was just staying on top of a horse rather than actually jumping but the thing is I don’t care because I love it. I have probably lost my chance at riding in the Olympics therefore it doesn’t matter that I’m not very good because it’s all just for fun.
I think a lot of the reason people don’t learn new things is fear of failure or embarrassment. As a child we are constantly learning and it’s seen as the norm. Clearly as a child we are expected to not know most stuff therefore we can accept that we have to learn. As an adult we spend so much of our time at work pretending that we know everything about our jobs (or is that just me?) that I think people forget that they don’t know things and it’s ok to learn.
I’ve always enjoyed learning new things, and am happy to admit that I don’t know a lot of stuff. I think it is helped partly by the fact I have very little in the way of competitive spirit. Even as a child I had no interest in competitive sports – when I was in nursery (or primary clearly I can’t remember that far back) apparently during a race in school sports day I was in the lead but stopped to wait for my friend ultimately losing. It’s probably a good job I haven’t got pushy parents who forced me into sports I would have been such a disappointment.
I think that all adults would be happier if they accepted the point of learning something new is that you are not supposed to be any good at it to start with. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve not done something because I might not be any good or might be embarrassed. Running is a great example that I put off for ages in case everyone laughed at me as I jogged (or walked) round our local park. It took me a good while to realise that no one is looking. The only people who look at other people trying to run are those that are runners and without fail are remembering a time they started out and were not any good. Therefore I think it’s time to all embrace our inner Eddie Izzard and learn something new and not care if we are no good at it. As long as we enjoy it. I may give learning Arabic a miss though.
Recently my friend Mr T sent me a link to the British Library classic crime collection (full list here if anyone is interested) As someone who likes to think of herself as a bit of a crime fiction fanatic I was quite surprised to realise I hadn’t actually heard of most of them. This ‘golden age of crime’ had passed me by. Having looked through the list some of them sound excellent, which means there are even more books to add to my never ending ‘to be read’ list.
I was thinking about this the other day, as when wondering around Waterstones I lost count of how many books I picked up that I really wanted to read. Walking round a bookshop can take me hours and that’s when I’m not even buying anything. It was actually quite overwhelming. There were so many books that sounded good, it is just an impossible task to read them all. I wonder does anyone ever actually get to read all the books they want to read?
I have a target of 50 books this year on the goodreads challenge, yet I probably have more than that just sat either waiting to be read on my kindle or in the pile currently teetering in the spare room. Sometimes I think life might be easier if I was one of those people to whom reading is just a chore not a pleasure. Then again life would be a lot duller and what do people who don’t like to read do with all their spare time?
Don’t get me wrong, I do have other hobbies other than just reading which I enjoy doing. Me and the aforementioned Mr T will be attempting to complete the Muddy Boots 10k in Ripon at the beginning of next month (He’s promised to keep my coffee warm whilst he waits for me to finish, although that may be more due to me having the car key than any desire to see me finish!) I recently attended a sewing class and practiced my skills on what turned out to be a rather wonky Christmas stocking for Mr F. I’m a school governor and mentor a teenager. Plus, as people who know me may already know, I also like to spend a considerable amount of time each week helping support local businesses by sampling their wares of an evening. Yet reading will always be my favourite pastime.
Some of the above can of course be combined with reading. Going for a jog is always better with an audiobook to pass the time. In those moments such as last night in Manchester when I’m on my own I like nothing more than sitting in a bar – I mean supporting local business – with a glass of red wine and a book. However, I think sitting in a governors meeting and reading a book at the same time might be a step too far.
Oh well I shall just have to continue adding books to that ever growing list and of course supporting that most favourite business of mine, the bookshop.
Well once again Christmas is over, last year’s calendars have been taken down (well nearly, I keep forgetting about the one in the bedroom but it does have a lovely orang-utan picture on it) and New Year’s resolutions have been made ready to be broken.
It seems this year that rather than making actual New Year resolutions, the more popular options are to just make changes for January with numerous challenges being advertised. There is Jantastic (which I must confess to taking part in) where you set an exercise goal for the 4 weeks. You then hope to achieve your goal by telling everyone who’ll listen that you are doing it and hopefully someone will remember enough to ask you how you are getting on later. Luckily you can change your goals at any time so if you don’t quite make it then it’s easy to change them.
There is Veganuary, which as you can probably guess is where people give up all animal products for the month. This is something I’d quite like to try as have always fancied giving veganism a go. Unfortunately there are two problems for me with this. I’m addicted to mayonnaise, and we currently have enough cheese in our fridge to rebuild the entire moon. I hate to waste food so maybe not this year.
There is also of course the popular Dryathlon, where people ask for sponsorship for giving up drinking alcohol for a month. I’m sure everyone would agree that cutting down on alcohol is a good idea. However there is something about this event that just makes me a little uneasy. There are lots of people out there for whom drink is a real battle so maybe all donations should be given to AA instead. Not that I’m knocking anyone doing it, every little helps as Tesco says. Any event which raises money for charity as well as raising awareness of the cause is a worthy thing to do. However I just wonder if rather than putting up a poster and ticking off the days until the next alcoholic drink, maybe raising money for cancer research by cutting down alcohol intake for a whole year would be more beneficial rather than this current all or nothing approach.
Personally I think rather than doing a month of something and then stopping whether it be exercise, diet or learning a language it would be much better to try and make permanent changes. That’s why I like the reading challenges going around. They are for a year not just for January. Obviously most people are focussing on Mark Zuckerberg and his personal ‘read a book a fortnight’ resolution. Yet before he jumped on the bandwagon there were others out there doing similar things.
The excellent Goodreads website encourages people to say how many books they want to read in a year and tell people on their website (https://www.goodreads.com/challenges/3082-2015-reading-challenge) If ever there was a suggestion that people don’t read anymore this surely proves them wrong, so far over 580 000 people have signed up pledging to read an average of 51 books, that’s a lot of books to be read in 2015.
Of course these are all just the challenges and resolutions that are newsworthy and I’ve no doubt that all over the world people have made their own targets for 2015. Personally mine are to read 50 books, to participate in at least 5 10ks this year (note I don’t say run them all!), to swim at least twice a week and to remember to take down the 2014 calendar that’s in the bedroom. Fingers crossed I remember what I’ve said by the end of the month.