25 July 2009

Cambridge redux

A very Cambridge day on Saturday, starting with breakfast with my friend Matt at Albion, which took a while to digest so I didn't end up running until quite late in the day. The sides of the Regent's Canal are currently covered in wisteria, which always reminds me of Tree Court at Caius, and I was thinking of my old university as I was running along. After I while, I came across another quintessential Cambridge view, that of a hapless punter in all sorts of difficulty, blocking the entire canal round about Mile End Park. Turns out you can rent them as of fairly recently...

19 July 2009

Marco Polo

I ran my >10 miler around Chelsea Bridge last night as penance for recent excesses and over-consumption (lunch at my sister's on Saturday, lunch at Herms' birthday on Sunday etc). Forgot to wear my iPod, which was annoying given the 1.5 hour duration.

My run was my standard loop around Chelsea Bridge, taking me past what I now know to be called the Marco Polo building, just opposite Battersea Park. An unremarkable building, ugly even. However, it has a slightly bizarre symbolism for me.

Picture the scene. I've just finished my A-levels. The summer holidays and a place at university await. My best pal, Osh, decides we need to go for a drive around London, so a bunch of us piled into his old-school VW Beetle and just took off - him, me, I think the Scrimgeour twins and one other. It was, from memory, a beautiful summer evening and the feeling of freedom, driving around London, was exhilarating. At some point we drove past the Marco Polo building, which was, back then, the HQ of the Observer I think, and we got out to marvel at its shiny whiteness. I remember feeling a very clear sense of excitement, of a new phase of my life about to start - hardly surprising given I'd been at the same school for the previous 11 years and was really only just about to experience my first taste of independence. The memory of being in that car, with nowhere to be and total freedom to go where we wanted remains vivid. Somehow, the building's name, evoking exploration and new horizons, is strangely appropriate.

Why does our fifth companion in the car remain nameless? Well, he was the one who, when we ended up driving back through Brixton fairly late in the day, cowered down in the front seat of the car whimpering "I don't want to get shot". Now, whilst this was back in the day when cabbies would refuse to "go South of the river at this time of night", his concern that we'd be shot simply for being white guys in a car was pretty pathetic even considering our tender years...

15 July 2009


No running this week but plenty of exercise, courtesy of a 6-day trip to the Pyrénées with a few of the Caius lot. We flew to Pau and made our way down to Gavarnie. We then started our trip, armed with little more than a couple of maps and several tons of trail mix, cheese and local sausage. Our little wander took us up to the Breche de Roland (in the background below), round into San Nicolás de Bujaruelo on the Spanish side before wandering along to the highest peak in the French Pyrénées, the 3,298m Vignemale. The view from the top, down across the glacier, is above.

The walking was tough-ish - we averaged just under 1,000m of ascent per day, generally with a c15kg pack on, so I don't feel like I've missed out on my training. The ascent up the glacier was particularly exciting for me, never having used crampons or an ice-axe before, and it felt liberating to be doing a trip like this independently - without a guide. The other real highlight was the flora and fauna - not usually my bag. Nevertheless, the fields of flowers were really stunning and the unexpected (for me anyway) and multiple sightings of marmots frolicking in the sunshine was a joy given the number of times I must have skied a run called 'Marmottes' (every resort seems to have one). Finally, I mustn't forget to mention Dix' inspired decision, not only to organise the trip, but also to buy us all berets at the start. It really helped us to make friends.
The trip was useful in other ways too. It really highlighted again how important hill training, cross-country and training with a pack will be in my prep for the MdS - much tougher than road-running. I also managed to pick up some kind of injury to the medial collateral ligament in my left knee, which I'm currently hoping will disappear of its own accord...

05 July 2009


The blog seems to be unintentionally turning into a kind of chronicle of 'how I got my hangover last night' - like the "I see you like to recycle" Drinkaware campaign on the Tube. Last night's excuse was a visit from Kiddo, a friend who now lives in Chicago, over for the 4th July weekend. We got to watch the Nathan's competition (it turns out I can get ESPN on Sky), which produced another amazing contest - it's hard to believe how far the sport has come even since my first visit to Coney Island in 2004. This was followed up with the usual idiocy...

The pic is of some dudes fishing in Limehouse Basin, with the temples of Mammon in the background.