Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Running Away: pt 2 > Santa Margherita Ligure, GE

OK… we’ve covered Berlin (49km of it)… what next? Why, Santa Margherita Ligure (GE), Italy!

Santa Margherita Ligure is where I grew up, the result of a holiday romance which is still going strong some forty-one years after the lovebirds married. It’s amazing how strong relationships between a couple who are not entirely fluent in each other’s mothertongue can be… I’m telling you, that’s the best foundation I’ve come across! Anyroad, Santa Margherita…

…is not as well knows as the neighbouring town of Portofino, especially amongst foreign tourists. Which is a tad harsh, what with Portofino just being totally over-rated for what it truly is… if anything, get on a ferry or hike across to go and see San Fruttuoso, there’s true beauty for you!

All that said, Portofino is not an ugly sight. And the coastal road linking it to Santa Margherita makes for a really nice running route – and a far safer one now than when I first ran along it back in the 1980s, next to my Dad…

…to be honest, that wasn’t a particularly enjoyable experience. As you know, I can’t stand running – and I cared for it even less back then. Looking back, I’m not surprised: most people turn to running after trying their hands at proper sports in which you keep the score, such as tennis, football, golf and the like. Running is what you do when you have kids and work constraining your flexibility to make “the Wednesday session” or “the Friday match”: it’s what you do when you need to go out as and when you can. So, when my Dad was training for any one of his three marathons, I had little enthusiasm to join him. He never pushed me on pace, never reprimanded me, but he was keen for me to share in his passion. I just couldn’t be arsed.

So when I headed back to Santa (see – the name gets shorter with every mention!) in October, it was about exorcising as much as it was about exercising. It was about treading that same tarmac but with something almost resembling tolerance across my face. It was also about seeing how much running I could get done whilst on holiday with all the diplomatic commitments that I must honour when back in Santa, not to mention wife (one) and kids (two). I had high hopes of keeping runstreak going, as a solitary mile is sufficient… but as for any reasonable exercise, I wasn’t particularly optimistic…

…whereas, as it turns out, over the seven days we were over there I ended up clocking 75.6km. As with Berlin, each and every one of those was flat! My Dad was eager to suggest hillier routes, but I was not in listening mode. Not because animated by the same contrary spirit I displayed when turning down offers to run with him all those years ago but because I genuinely wanted to practice some flat running! Much as I appreciate the added value that comes from training in a hilly environment, it is of little guidance to the pace I can realistically target on the flat. So whilst an 8k run on Tuesday 30 was not, in itself, a great feat, I felt good about completing it at a pace of 5’21”/km. On those roads I know so well… from my parent’s house through via XXV Aprile, across the road to the Giardini, along the coast through Corte and then past the Miramare and Regina Helena hotels, past the Covo, through the delightful area of Paraggi, round the bend and through to Portofino… and back. Not a bad way to clock 12.5km!

It felt really good to exorcise and exercise. It felt good to record some decent times. And, trust me, it felt particularly good on November 2 to take this sunrise shot in Paraggi:

And yes, the runstreak was kept alive, thank you very much! Even on the day we landed back in the UK, when it was saved by a chippierun: when all else fails, run to the chippie and back! But, if you get the chance to run alongside the Mediterranean coastline… grab it, my son.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Running Away: pt 1 > Berlin, DE

Right then… where were we?

Well, I was in Berlin. October 21-25, that is. Then I was in Liguria, near Genoa, from October 27 to November 3. And then I was in Boston (MA. not Lincs), November 10-15. In between those trips, I got to spend some time at home: but, by my standards, that’s a lot of time away from Portishead. One more trip next week (Stuttgart), then I should be done with travelling for a while. Not that I mind it, by any means: but, in the build-up to Christmas, it’s always good to be home.

So – what did these trips mean for running? Let’s start with Berlin – and we can carry on in future posts.

Just before Berlin, on October 12, I’d started a runstreak. This means running at least a mile/day every day. I didn’t hold out too much hope of sticking to it during my time in Germany. To put this into context, between October 22 and 24 my company, Servigistics, held its annual regional conference, EXCHANGE EMEA 2012. To put this into further context, organising and running this conference is one of my main tasks, and arguably the one that takes up the higher chunk of my time. Over those three days, I am in the constant spotlight as far as my colleagues are concerned. It is my responsibility to ensure everything runs as smoothly as possible. If things do, great: and the sum of all those parts will, hopefully, be noticed. If they don’t, then any one part will grab the spotlight.

With that in mind, I couldn’t see myself running much on those three days. As I did in 2010 (Barcelona) and 2011 (Dublin), I wasn’t going to have any time to run: the conference is all-consuming and I have to be available pretty much 24 hours/day. So why/how/when run?

Well, here’s the thing. In recent months I have come to appreciate that my morning runs, which intuitively should tire me out before I’ve even headed into the office, actually energise me. The endorphins kick in and I’ve got more to give than had I just rolled out of bed, showered and eaten. Counter-intuitive but true. So… why would I not fit in a run on the mornings of the biggest and most important days in my work calendar?

With that in mind, you won’t be quite as surprised to learn that I ran 10km on Monday 22, 5km on Tuesday 23 and 10km on Wednesday 24. Tuesday was when the main event started, and early: the first presentation was at 8:00. So 5km was impressive…
…and not unduly taxing. See, Berlin’s quite flat. The area in which we were based lent itself nicely to flat runs. My average pace over those three days was 5’24”/km. Perfect!

Then came Thursday 25…
…by that point, most of the people around me had consumed their fair share of alcohol, and then some. It’s an inherent part of the socialising that goes with business conferences and I say that without a hint of irony. Twelve months prior, I’d hardly touched a drop until it was all over, when I ensured I was the last one standing at the hotel bar in Dublin, enjoying varying types of Jameson’s. This time round… again, I’d hardly touched a drop whilst the event was live, but I didn’t indulge unduly in alcohol once the curtain had been brought down. I had a few but kept my sobriety – too keen to get in a decent run the following morning…
…exactly, Thursday 25. Having devised a sightseeing map, I set off at 7:38am. The map was followed with an unintentional and unknowing sprinkling of liberalism, i.e. I ultimately discovered I’d got lost and proceeded to ask “Wo ist die Kudamm?” every five minutes, given the look I got when I first asked it and was sent back hence I’d come…
…but, by then, I’d seen some glorious sights. Running through the Tiergarten and past the Brandenburg Gate is not something I’ll forget in any great hurry. And, helpfully, this route was just as flat as the one to Zoological Garden, to which I’d wandered on the Monday with the whole “Achtung Baby” ringing in my ears – as well as memories of reading Christiane F. at school in my early teenage years.

By the time I’d got back to the hotel, I’d run for 24km in a highly-pleasing 2h5’14” – 5’13”/km. That was the pace at which I’d run the Bristol Half Marathon, powered by the adrenalin of race day. So very, very happy with the time – and even happier with the setting for it. And, as I sat down for breakfast, I felt a darn sight better than I would have done after an all-nighter – in every sense!

So… that was Berlin, folks… considering I thought runstreak would be in jeopardy in Germany, I was happy with 49km over four days…
…check in again soon for tales of my runs in Santa Margherita Ligure and Boston! Is runstreak still alive???

Monday, 5 November 2012

I'm still here!!!

Eeh bah gum!!!

I realised I hadn’t posted in a while but… October 8? Seriously?!

So… 28 days… four full weeks…

…look, I’ve been busy. Seriously. But fear not, I’ve also been running. In fact, over the past 28 days I’ve covered 279km in three countries: the UK (default), Germany (work) and Italy (holidays). I’ll tell you a bit more about Germany and Italy over the next few days, if another work trip (US) doesn’t get in the way… for now, I just wanted to reassure you that I’m still running. Still can’t stand it but still doing it. Indeed, I’ve started something called ‘runstreak’…

…basically, I’m trying to run at least one mile every day. No rest days and no cross-training, therefore defying all sane logic whilst following the advice of some fellow runners (can I actually say that?) on Twitter. Seems to work for some… let’s hope I’m one of them. If not, easy enough to revert to sanity. So far, I’ve run for 25 days in a row. Trust me, that’s nowt compared to the more committed nutters: if you don’t believe me, google away!

There you go, for now – and don’t worry, I will keep this up. Through the rain, the cold, the tiredness, I’ll keep it up. That’s been the case until this first week of November, anyway!