Saturday, 21 January 2012

Marathon Countdown - Week 13

It is not yet 6am on a Saturday morning in January and the wind is whipping outside, bending trees and howling around houses. It is contrastingly calm and cwtchily warm in my flat, in my bed. But there is nowhere I’d rather be in this moment than in my trainers, rain in face, running against said whipping wind. I wake up thinking about running. My legs tell me to move. Is that addiction? You might suggest love. Either way, that was yesterday morning, and that's what I talk about when I talk about running.

In past weeks and months I’ve talked about running in very different ways. Prior to Cardiff’s October half marathon I suddenly became terrified of running. An activity I had always undertaken alone would need to be carried out amongst crowds of thousands. That scared me. I thought these things:

  1. I’ll come last
  2. I’ll fall over
  3. I’ll come last and fall over and everyone will laugh.
Inner Running by Donald Porter calmed me, a book I am becoming evangelical about. Donald Porter, if you start a religion, I will become an Inner Running nun. I did not come last, I did not fall over, if anyone laughed at me I did not see them. I loved taking part in the half marathon. I ran fear-free again, albeit with a post-race limp.

Then December arrived. I had a bit of chiropractic treatment, my injuries healed and running felt good. It was, however, the month of a thousand Christmas parties and an assignment deadline so I didn’t get to run as much as I’d have liked. Still, the runs I did complete were great, particularly the early Christmas morning one when the streets were silent and still, full of expectation for the day ahead. And running over Christmas massively alleviates the usual exploding-with-chocolate feeling.

The prettiest picture I have of Bute Park. Not on a Park Run day admittedly.
And now it’s January. I’ve started attending Cardiff’s Park Run. It’s a weekly event which is part of a national not for profit organisation that does what it says on the website. You go to a park (Bute in my case) and run a timed 5k. I experienced the coming-last-and/or-falling-over nerves before my first, but once again my paranoid premonitions weren’t realised and I now love it. Lots of friends old and new attend, and it’s a wonderful way to wake up to the weekend, if a little finger-freezing at the moment!

So, today (Sunday January 22nd) marks thirteen weeks until THE BIG DAY when I’ll be running the London Marathon. INSERT FILTHY SWEAR WORDS OF PANIC HERE

Just joking, I'm calm.

I’ve had the last week off running due to being ill. I have Old?! Crohn’s Disease which flares up now and again, and I’d have made things worse by running this week. Instead I rested and my trainers are still waiting faithfully by the front door. I feel loads better and can’t wait to start ‘proper’ training. From here on in I’m aiming for five times a week with a mix of long runs, sprints, hills and slow jogs. I’ll also mix in some swimming, maybe a bit of yoga, lots of healthy foods and big sleeps. There’s also the small matter of fundraising and completing another masters module during the thirteen weeks ahead. But I have strategies in place, friends, family and the folks in Tenovus supporting so I know I’ll get there. And compared to the situations faced by the people I'm raising funds for, what I'll go through in the coming months will be a breeze.

I’ll be blogging at least once a week during my marathon countdown. If you’re following my stories and thoughts – thank you! I've gotten a bit behind in my running log this month, but will resume asap. If you’d like to donate as part of my fundraising campaign you can do so 

Bring. It. On.

Monday, 2 January 2012


A new story for the new year...

It is 2pm.
You are drunk.
You are wearing a skirt.
The stripper is not wearing a skirt.

Today’s light is the colour of anaemic sunshine, and the remnants of countless smoked cigarettes appear to shade the sky. The Square’s medieval structures and cobbled streets hold an air of disdain, their moodiness tangible all around. From on high, The National Museum looms imposingly, the city’s guardian, remembering, observing, disapproving. A million ghosts jar with a thousand tourists.
Emet wraps the scarf tighter around his neck and unties the ear flaps of his hat. Sat on a wooden bench, he wiggles his legs up and down on top of glove-less hands, small bones chilled by November winds. He watches goose bumps form on hairy white legs belonging to a man in a pink tutu. The man’s knees tremble.

It is 6pm.
You are drunk.
You are eating a mustard smothered sausage from a stand.
You shout yes to the salesperson's offer of hot wine.

Dusk dissolves the light into a shady version of itself. A square removed; crowds of camera clad people gaze up at a clock tower. The hour strikes and their cameras click, capturing rickety disappointment. Gothic peaks pierce inky expanse, their spot-lit bodies projecting faint pools of light down onto cold stone.

The little boy visits the shop to pick up some chocolate bars. The weathered Loew's Store sign hangs above the doorway, translated for tourists. His dad insists on the big coat and gloves. Less mobile but cosy, and later he finds a paper wrapped pastry in the left pocket. Leaning against a market stall he eats whilst people watching, his gaze settling on a slowly assembling tour group. The tutu-clad man is amongst them, swaying and singing, his yells crushing the quieter, hushed voices all around. He has a can of cider in hand. His friends laugh as he bumps into scarf wrapped locals struggling to hurry past. Emet’s eyes narrow. His shoulders become rigid.

It is 8pm.
You are drunk.
You are staggering through a walking tour of the city's Jewish Quarter.
You need the toilet but there are no bars around. You find a quiet spot.

Pallid grey stones tangle with pallid grey stones in an undulating labyrinth of memorial. The headboards of the dead rest above the city's ground level, raised high by residents' grandfathers and grandmothers and their grandmothers and grandfathers. The tour guide has led the group to the Jewish Sector entrance, where a giant stone statue stands. Emet watches. He can hear her words in the distance, and recites along in whispered tones. He can also see the man, who has fallen away from the group, his friends too drunk to notice, the guide counting on her young friend.

Emet tastes bile in his mouth as he watches the man urinate in the shadows, desecrating the deceased. He grits his teeth and begins to whisper again, a different recital this time, his own name, over and over, over, and over, over and over.

It is 9pm.
You are sober.
A gargantuan shadow looms over you, blackening even the darkness.
You feel searing pain in your head. Nobody can hear your screams.

The group gather patiently around the guide to hear the end of tour tale, oblivious to nearby events.
In the 16th century, during the reign of Rudolf II, an old man named Rabbi Judah Loew lived in Prague. It was a time when the city's Jewish people lived in fear of attack. Rabbi Loew decided to protect the Jews by creating the Golem, a giant who, according to the Cabala, could be made of clay from the banks of the Vltava. The Golem was built following prescribed rituals, the Rabbi bringing him to life by reciting a special incantation in Hebrew. The word "emet", meaning "truth", was placed on the Golem's forehead.
The Golem obeyed the Rabbi's every order, protecting the people of the Jewish Ghetto. However, as he grew bigger, he became violent, killing non-Jews and spreading fear. Violence against the Jews was promised to stop if the Golem was destroyed, to which Rabbi Loew agreed. By removing the first letter from the word "emet", and changing to "met" - meaning "death" - life was taken out of the Golem.
But the story does not end there. Rabbi Loew's son, according to legend, brought the golem back to life some years later, and it is rumoured he is still protecting Prague today...”

Only the little boy, listening from afar as he always does, notices the satisfied glint in the tour guide's eye.