Sunday, 8 December 2013

a week is a long time in December

Here's a new line to the 12 days of Christmas, “Eight bags of flour!”

Yes it's the Water of Leith Half Marathon again. It has been one of 2.5 topics on my agenda this week. So much so I didn't even notice I had no work on the go. Nor any time for any. The other thing on my list-of-things-to-do-before-the-weekend was to paint a coach. (No horses.) A coach, the coach being Gordon, whose knees insisted he hang up his running shoes while they still had some mileage left in them. He didn't give in easily though and spent many's a Wednesday evening shouting encouragements into the wind and rain from the sidelines. So to mark Gordon's retiral I volunteered to paint his portrait.

In a previous life I painted sign boards for the Playhouse. This involved making accurate representations of show posters on the four 10' x 5' boards that used to live just outside the entrance of the theatre. And painting 22' x 7' semi opaque vinyl sheets for the large light box that still exists above the entrance. I was replaced by digital technologies when it became cheaper to print one-offs than hand paint them. However it was a useful apprenticeship and probably taught me more about figurative painting than 4 years of art school ever did.

So in theory a smallish portrait of Gordon was a doddle. “What if it turns out shit” said Mary in a confidence inspiring way. “Then Gordon gets a shit painting.” Although it occurred to me I didn't really have a plan B. Gordon knew of the plan as I wanted a decent photo to work from and so I got in touch and we did a photo shoot months ago. I then got distracted by day-to-day work and shelved the project until Jenni suggested the Christmas bash would be a good opportunity to present the painting and how was it going anyway? Hmmm, I had drawn it onto the canvas and put it on a shelf, so, nearly done. Just the painty bit left.

Jim being chased to the finish

Meanwhile the WoL loomed. I used to really enjoy running this race but now I am running it, it has taken on a different feel. We rationalised the email list last year so in theory this should run like a well oiled machine but then you get undelivered emails back and people send in wildly unrealistic handicap times and you wonder are they injured, are they unfamiliar with how long it takes to run 13 miles, or are they angling to win it. Meanwhile the WoL itself is a moveable feast and the route needs to be monitored for changes and diversions. Things are improving with the flood defence work nearing completion, opening up sections that have been closed for years. Traditionally in Edinburgh, large scale projects, be it Parliament Buildings or Tram Lines generally invoke the word fiasco, but this project seems to have stayed below the radar of the chattering classes. Maybe it will channel flood waters when they eventually show up, away from the river and into the town centre?

Anyway on Wednesday I recced the course and on Friday I put down flour arrows to guide the runners past junctions and forks steering them through leafy suburbs and downstream to Leith. In between times I would put another coat of paint on Gordon. It was all going in the right direction but it takes only the smallest mistake to make the whole thing look wonky, and Mary's words were still ringing in my ears.

So I said 2.5 things. The point5 was some running. Someone asked what I am currently training for and I don't really have any big targets since Wales but am just enjoying being vaguely fit. My legs were tired after racing the 7Rs so on Dec2nd I didn't run, putting a line through any thoughts about Marcothoning. Although it has it's merits and benefits, I like to kid myself I can train more intelligently than just knocking out a handful of miles every day. Inevitably this is how it gets later in the month of Marco. I have done it several times. So my more intelligent response? After taking Monday off I did meadow's intervals Tuesday (horrible, windy and slightly down on my usual: tired legs from 7Rs?). Then club on Wednesday – a pyramid session from Willie J. Then Thursday Wintervals with Carnethies on Arthurs Seat. Hill reps on the back of the crags. A pyramid session (deja vu) and I was remembering the last time Brian Cruickshank did 3 speed sessions in a week then none for quite some time afterwards

Friday and Saturday were swallowed up by the WoL Half and then onto the PRC xmas Bash. I had decided to miss the latter as I have an aversion to cheap christmas music being played in my ears so loudly I have to shout and spit into the face of the person sitting next to me. However it would seem weird not to be there to present Gordon with his painting. It was finished sometime after midnight on Friday and varnished between the WoL Half and catching a bus to Morningside. Missed the dinner and arrived in time for the presentation. (Best not cycle with painting under arm – too much potential for Laurel and Hardy type interaction.) The painting hadn't turned out shit which was a relief although it had reminded me both of the joys of applying paint, and the concentration required. I can only do about half a day before I have to step away and do something else with my eyes till they recover and can see again. So it didn't take a whole week's work, probably about 2 or 3 days total, but it spread out to fill the week. So if you would like something similar in time for christmas don't hang about. And the painting and decorating seems to have hit the xmas slump again. No wonder it's my favourite time of the year for humbugs.

Robin and Anne Wombill-ing in

After a couple of drinks and a room full of lovely people (about a quarter of whom were in far-too-short-dresses and uncomfortably high shoes, why, I've no idea, the things folk do...) I warmed to the joys of ... well of getting a bit drunk after a week of taxing, yet unpaid work. I tried not to listen to the dreadful “music”, I enjoyed chatting to folk and left before any Auld Lang Syne pushed me beyond my comfort zone. I may have been drunk but there's only so much I can weather.


As I left I was pleased I was wearing my night runners. These are a pair of ridiculously insubstantial pumps or minimalist racing shoes I got from a non-sports shop yet are pretty much zero drop, natural gait, vibram-like beauties. I noticed a few weeks ago on the way home from town that I enjoyed running to the bus stop so much I continued and lifted the pace. I don't know if it was as an antidote to the long sit in the theatre or just wearing barefoot-like gutties but it felt good. There is something about running through the city after dark that makes me feel like a panther in the night. I realise the cctv probably looks like a old drunk fleeing the scene of a crime, but in my head is the panther. At this time of the year especially at the weekends the streets are littered with xmas debris pouring out of office parties, xmas cracker paper hats askew. I got cat calls on Leith Walk as I raised the pace towards 6 minute miling, my earphones blasting out (non-seasonal) music.

Jim and Jim

Graham (fastest man) won a spot prize beer for gritting duties.

Bobby Campbell gets a spot prize beer for being great!

I arrived home in a lather, having just run 5 miles in normal clothes. Not best practice but very good fun. And quite a good way to evaporate the alcohol out the system. Certainly an improvement from the good old days when I used to pour it back out the way it had gone in. Funnily enough I saw this hasn't entirely gone out of fashion, in fact the recent extreme sport of jagerbombing often features this in the final movement.

photo: Martin D 

I can't really recommend night running with earphones in, and barefoot gutties because it is about as wise as jagerbombs but maybe that's the price of a good night out or taking unnecessary risks? I don't seem to have done any lasting damage.

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