Monthly Archives: March 2010

Marathon, a bit of a panic

I’m trying to remember the exact words and I almost have them but not quite. A friend was saying something about the London Marathon about either starting slowly or not going fast. Slower than even the half-marathon pace. It’s a sentiment echoed by the New York Times as well in the article The Best Marathon Advice You’ll Ever Get written by Liz Robbins: “Don’t go out too fast. You will be tempted. Resist. Don’t do it.” There’s a lot of advice out there but this one seems worthwhile and consistent.

There was just over one month of training left last week when I was chatting about the marathon and I hadn’t run more than a half-marathon distance yet. By the end of the chat I had approached a little closer to panic with his earnest admonition to run at least 20 miles before the race. If I was increasing my speed at no more than 10% a week that would give me only around 15miles -> 17 miles -> 20 miles by the third week and then tapering off before the marathon. That weekend (this last one) would be crucial.

I woke up in a panic that Saturday at around 3.30 in the morning with thoughts of all the miles I hadn’t run yet. I spent the rest of my night exploring what resources were available out in the wider social networked world and I came across a video blog and twitter account of @runitfaster. I felt a little better and paid attention to some great suggestions from a sporting coach on threshold runs, longer runs, and tapering.

I’ll outline some of the suggestions because the video was only up for a couple of days. I recommend following him on Twitter if you can for further advice.


Remember the purpose of tapering which is to allow your body to recover. If you’re looking for a 4 and a half to 5 hour time, then aim for 25-30 mins recovery runs.

Mentally preparing: this is such a big deal, especially if it’s your first one, pacing the race can be tricky. For a sub-4 hour run, your average pace should be around 9 minutes per mile.

There are three strategies for running the race: 1) either a steady pace throughout; 2) run a positive split, first half faster than the second half; 3) negative split, run the second half faster than the first half, step it up 15-20 seconds faster each mile in the second half.

You need to prepare the strategy mentally first, go into the race with a plan.

Breaking the race into sections is another strategy. You can see the marathon, as two 10 mile races and then a 10km, and the real challenge is the 10km at the end. For a marathon runner the 10km is an easy run, easy peasy. Of course it doesn’t matter how you break it down, either 5km or 10km as well.

Find out where the water or fuel stations are. With the London Marathon you can find it on the race web site or in the magazine Marathon News. This gives you something to aim for.

Plan your race day routine as well. Hour by hour. What time do you have to get up in the morning, what time at the venue, start line. What you are going to wear. Avoid stress: get to a race early, and also have a warm up.

Sudden changes in your program are something to avoid – increasing your sessions towards the end is a bad idea.

Avoid excessive alcohol consumption as this will affect your training, performance and recovery. Try to get early nights, allowing yourself to recover. An extra half an hour / hour in bed will make the world of difference.

Some of my favourite advice is from the NYT article and the advice to enjoy the little bursts of joy, the thrill “when children standing on the sidewalks hold out their hands for runners to high-five.”

They end with the same advice with which I, and they and he, start: don’t go out too fast. I’ve made a note.

Clifton, somewhere

Clifton, somewhere, originally uploaded by still awake.

Grain Barge, Beer and Chocolate

The Bristol Beer Factory is celebrating Cask Ale Week from 30 March until 5 April and they want you to celebrate with them. The specials on offer are drink based: buy three Bristol Stout and get one free, and there’s a tasting.

The tasting is of Beer and Chocolate, the price is £8 and the event is held on April 1st at 8pm on the Grain Barge in Bristol. The Grain Barge is moored at Mardyke Wharf and serves local beer from a harbourside location facing the SS Great Britain. It has only been open since July 2007 but was already voted Venue’s “Best Bar in Bristol”. There is seating upstairs on the deck and tables inside. I’ve only ever tasted Bristol Stout and Milk Stout from other drinkers but they were enjoyable enough to have me excited about going on Thursday.

Contact Andrew or The Grain Barge for further information.

Grain Barge, Mardyke Wharf, Hotwells Rd, Hotwells, Bristol, BS8 4RU

St Catherines, windows

St Catherines, windows, originally uploaded by still awake.

The Adam and Eve, hidden away

The most beautiful view of Bristol I encountered recently was from the top floor of a house up and past Clifton Vale Rd. The sun was shining over the fields and houses and even from the dank and smoke-stained worn down top floor apartment, the sight was breath-taking. Hope Chapel Hill is a steep road not far from the previous site but provides a hidden away pause from the brightness by keeping itself to itself. Insular and quietly settled in the shadows of the houses and trees, it provides a comfortable, albeit opulent, embrace just before the glamour of Clifton.

Before you get to Hope Square, when heading up the hill, there’s a pub on the right called the Adam and Eve. The outside is white and that’s always a surprise to me because I recall it as a cosy, softly lit but dark little space. The pub inside is one room but there are corners and hidden away nooks that provide a subtle privacy if you want it.

The privacy worked beautifully well last week and the hidden away space was in the corner by the window right by the fireplace. Social also works there and the first time I visited I moved tables to sit with a friendly group at a nearby table while my companion was outside. Intimate and friendly can be interchangeable at the Adam and Eve and it’s a relaxed pub which is inviting on most nights of the week.

Next time I’ll have to go there for a meal which a few of the other people seemed to be enjoying and the wasabi peas probably need sampling as well. The view may not be of Bristol from up high but being there makes me happy just to be there.

Adam and Eve, 7 Hope Chapel Hill, Hotwells, Bristol, BS8 4ND

St Catherine’s, on the side

St Catherine’s, on the side, originally uploaded by still awake.

La Boqueria

Monday afternoon, nearly closing time for the Boqueria market and it is the first place I stumble upon on my visit to Barcelona. Two fruit juices are being sold off for one euro and I sip on a dragon fruit / coconut one first and a watermelon juice next as I walk around the various stands.

Even with most market traders gone, I love the atmosphere of the market and it brings back memories of Queen Vic Market in Australia. The latter also serves churros (Spanish donuts) although with powdered sugar rather than chocolate.

The churros are the next day’s breakfast, however, and on Monday night I head off from the middle of the Ramblas and continue my exploration of the touristy shops and Barcelona Port. The next day I return to the market for breakfast and juice and then the following day I go back for lunch and a carajillo. The market is busy on both days and the food on display is colourful and varied.

La Boqueria started off as a travelling market situated in the Ramblas, the famous tourist destination. It was initially an open-air market, in front of one of the gates of the old city wall (Pla de la Boqueria) where fruit and vegetable traders from local towns and farms nearby would sell their products. Its history has been full of changes with additions of bird shops and fishmongers not happening until the early 1800s. The metal roof was inaugurated in 1914 and from then there was a host of modernisations and improvement of sanitary levels.

Some of the treats now available are fresh fish and seafood; salty fish; tinned food; butchery and offal; birds; game and eggs; fruits and vegetables; herbs; delicatessen; breads and pastries; restaurants; frozen items; artisan products; charcuterie; farmers’ shops; wine; and even a Greek and an Italian hand made pasta stall.

When visiting Barcelona there is no better place to pause, peruse or just pursue some culinary pleasure. It is a market that comes highly recommended and not just by me. Try it, you’ll like it.

Hotel de Ville

Hotel de Ville, originally uploaded by still awake.

By the people, TH!NK3

‘It’s about the people’ was the phrase that kept making itself heard over the two days of the registration conference for the TH!NK3 blogging competition. The theme is development but it all comes down to how it affects people.

For the two days 22-23 March, the people involved were the 100 participants who had signed up to blog about this round’s theme. We came from countries from all corners of the world such as Mexico, United States, Australia, Bulgaria, Greece, UK, Portugal, South Africa, Iceland and Romania. We were all gathered in Brussels to begin our journey on evaluating how countries around the world had progressed in “facing the biggest issues known to man“. 10 years ago, world leaders embraced the challenge of such goals as ending poverty and hunger, providing universal education, and promoting women’s rights. Now with five years before the Millennium Development Goals are meant to be achieved UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has called on world leaders to attend a summit in New York on 20-22 September 2010 to boost progress towards them. We were gathered together to write and report about global cooperation and sustainable development in the lead up to the summit.

The competition is organised by the European Journalism Centre and follows TH!NK2 which focused on Climate Change and TH!NK which focused on the European Parliament elections.

We all gathered together for a three-course dinner within a casual environment designed to promote introductions between us and provide a closer glance at the competition itself. The participants did not need to be bloggers to be chosen but to be in with a chance to win a reporting experience, to either New York, Asia or Africa, 20 posts need to be written between March 24 and the end of August. Like it or not we would end up being bloggers and part of the media.

This information was presented during the dinner and afterwards a few groups of people went out to explore the city via its many bars through the side streets in the city centre. The late night excursions were reflected in the red eyes of more than a few of the participants at the all-day conference.

The schedule however provided for much interest and enthusiasm. The focus on development was augmented by the training and encouragement in journalism with tips on how to best promote, structure and utilise our work.

Marina Ponti, Director of Europe for the Millennium Campaign, provided the keynote speech and introduced us to the idea that “[t]he main obstacle is not lack of resources, or lack of technology. It’s the lack of political will”.

A panel of development journalists provided an international dimension of coverage with perspectives and examples from Guy Degen (independent journalist and trainer), Linord Rachel Moudou (Voice of America), Helmut Osang (DW), Thomas Seifert (Die Presse) and moderator Oliver Wates. They kept coming back to the idea that the issues may be overarching and affect nations and organisations but ultimately the effect is always local.

Most of the participants had some passing link to journalism, whether it was as practising, aspiring or student journalists. Some had a little trouble in making the transition from ‘reading’ the media to ‘being’ the media. Why do the press get it wrong? questioned one audience member and why aren’t they interested in important stories? Why Tiger Woods rather than starving children. Oliver Wates, former Reuters development journalist and trainer, stressed objectivity, addressing both sides of a story, and the two dimensions of importance and interest.

Whether people learn about slums in India through Slumdog Millionaire or about the human sacrifices in trade via Blood Diamond, we are now the ones responsible for getting the message out. So it begins.

Lonely traveller

Lonely traveller, originally uploaded by still awake.

One more traveller sitting and contemplating in front of the Hotel de Ville