All posts by Gavriel Hollander
Running the marathon has caused me to do any number of unexpected things over the last few months. Getting up at five in the morning, turning down a Friday night pint, buying yoghurts… The list of unnatural experiences goes on and on.
But of all the things I’ve endured, standing next to my news editor, Nick Duxbury, dressed as a genie in a lamp - with an unfortunately positioned spout to boot – for the duration of a photo shoot that felt like it took longer than the closing stages of the last Lord of the Rings film, was by far the worst.
It was all for a good cause of course. Nick and I joined fellow runners Sandra Maguire from Genesis Housing and Midland Heart’s John Taylor in a sun-kissed Green Park a couple of weeks ago for our feature on the hardships of marathon training and to promote the work done by HACT, for which we are plodding 26.2 miles around east London later this month.
Nick’s daring green and red ensemble, currently lying in a heap in a forgotten corner of the Inside Housing offices, was supplied by Gentoo, which sponsored him to the impressive tune of £300. Personally I’d have added an extra zero to that figure if anyone asked me to wear the thing, but that’s just me…
For my part, all I can offer my sponsors is a kind word and the chance to feel good about themselves.
Given which, it’s time for me to thank… Lovell, Pinnacle PSG, South Yorkshire Housing Association, Trowers & Hamlins, TLT, Circle, Orbit, Drivers Jonas Deloitte, Awics and, most of all, Apollo. Your generosity is appreciated by me and everyone at HACT.
Oh, and the running? Yeah, it’s going fine, thanks for asking. But I can’t wait to get my life back.
Six short weeks to go until the big day and my running pals are dropping like flies.
Nick Duxbury, my fellow Inside Housing runner, has a problem with his interosseous membrane (otherwise known as ‘knee knack’), while my friend Anjay, who is running for Notting Hill Housing Association, is on the long road to recovery from a similar ailment.
I should probably feel blessed that, touch wood, I have remained injury free. But how am I supposed to entertain myself as I grind through the hard miles?
As with most things in life, music is the obvious answer.
But picking one’s training soundtrack is a thorny issue. The emotional pull of a piece of music can, as I have discovered, have an extraordinary effect on a runner. It can take you from imagining that you could run forever, possibly keeping pace with a youthful Steve Cram while you’re at it, to feeling like your feet are weighed down by overfed wildebeest, driving a tractor in the opposite direction.
Recently, feeling in a particularly Motown mood after a morning at home listening to the Four Tops, I opted for a bit of Diana Ross as my musical accompaniment for a 6 miler around the park. The mistake, I later learnt, was to set my iPod to shuffle. Because, while ‘Ain’t No Mountain High Enough’ is the kind of uplifting anthem that can take 20 minutes off your marathon time, ‘Endless Love’ – the queen of soul’s dubious duet with Lionel Richie – did indeed feel endless.
So far, The Stone Roses have been my fallback option for inspirational running music. Most of the their debut album – with the possible exception of ‘Elizabeth My Dear’ – conjures images of me bursting across the finish line, inches ahead of a posse of pursuing Ethiopians and Kenyans, after a Kelly Holmes-esque come-from-behind sprint over the final half mile.
But, the reality is that I’m going to be on the go for a good four hours on race day. And even clocking in at a mammoth eight minutes long, that equates to thirty or so back-to-back repeat plays of ‘I Am The Resurrection’. Even the most hardcore Madchester devotee might find the inspiration waning after a while.
In the name of experimentation, I set my entire library on random and assessed the results: The Las’ ‘There She Goes’, obviously brilliant; Chuck Berry’s ‘Too Much Monkey Business’, surprisingly effective; Bach’s cello suite? Well, masterpieces they may be, but it’s easy to understand why the producers of Rocky overlooked poor old J.S when they were picking their soundtrack.
I’m now at something of a loss. So, I’ll throw it out there. Anyone with any good suggestions for training tuneage, let me know.
Talking of training, it’s starting to get tough. I did my first 16-miler last weekend, which included my first experience of the joy of energy gels – not pleasant in case you’re wondering – but failed to repeat the trick yesterday, pleading exhaustion. I settled for a couple of shorter ones, conning myself into believing that variety was what was needed. Yeah, right.
The fundraising also continues apace. Nick and I are both approaching halfway in our efforts to raise £2,000 for housing charity HACT.
If you want to sponsor either of us, all contributions are more than welcome. The charity does extraordinary work helping disadvantaged people meet their housing needs and should be supported by everyone with an interest in the sector.
Please dig deep.
Two weeks into the New Year and my marathon training has hit its first serious snag.
You see, the clever GPS app on my ‘you get what you pay for’ nowhere-near-as-good-as-an-iPhone mobile seems to have been a little generous to me.
Having been encouraged by the times I’d posted on some of my trundles around Victoria Park, I came into the post Christmas period feeling uncharacteristically good about my running. Sure, I was limping for five days after attempting to crack the 10-mile barrier but I’d been doing regular stints of 7 or 8 miles and was preparing to up my game.
So when I hooked up with marathon buddy Anjay on Tuesday night for a jog down to the Olympic stadium and back, I was dismayed to find that his on-board computer thingy (to give it its technical name) said we had done more than a quarter of a mile less than mine did.
In the spirit of scientific discovery, we synchronised watches and hit the road again before sunrise on Thursday. Maybe, I thought hopefully, Anjay had just taken the inside line on every turn; maybe he’d taken a short cut at some point, while I was busy blinking or tying a shoelace?
But the same happened again. Despite matching my friend stride for stride, Mr iPhone read 5.71 miles, while Mr Not-Quite-An-iPhone gave a confidence-boosting (but, more importantly, entirely inaccurate) reading of 5.97 miles.
Yes, I know, it’s not much. But that 4 per cent gap could mean the difference between breasting the tape on the Mall to the general acclaim of friends and family or running out of steam, like a red-faced beached whale, somewhere along the Embankment.
And what if my phone has just gone completely haywire, like Hal in 2001? What if the 50 miles it tells me I’ve clocked up since the start of December – the figure I’ve been touting around as evidence that I am, despite all predictions, taking this training business seriously – has just been plucked out of thin air?
Perhaps it’s time to harness my inner luddite and leave the technology at home. Next time, like Theseus, I’m just going to take out the longest ball of thread known to man and pray that I don’t come across any kittens on the way.
In better news, Nick and I have started piling on the sponsorship pressure and made some significant dents in our targets
We are running on behalf of housing charity HACT and, with the generous help of the sector, we hope to go way beyond the £2,000 minimum we have pledged to raise. It’s a great cause and all donations are gratefully received. You’ll even get a tweet from us for your troubles, so dig deep if you can afford it.
It’s midnight on 30 November. And, as I have done on this date for the past few years, I’ve just done a little jig of delight.
Why? Because the hateful spectacle that is Movember is finally behind us.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against people donating money to the fight against prostate cancer. I am, after all, not a monster.
No, what really grinds my gears is the idea that I should give money to grown men for the ability to produce facial hair. To a hardened cynic like me, it’s symbolic of the something for nothing culture that has allowed the likes of Kim Kardashian and the cast of Made in Chelsea to become more famous than Tim Berners-Lee (look him up).
If you want a challenge, I say, do something difficult. That’s why I, along with my fellow masochist on the Inside Housing news desk Nick Duxbury, am running the London Marathon next April in aid of housing charity HACT.
I accept that to some people – Paula Radcliffe, Eddie Izzard, Forrest Gump – running a marathon is no great shakes. But, presumably, all those people enjoy running.
I don’t enjoy running. In fact, it’s fair to say that I hate running. For one, it’s almost mind-numbingly boring. Secondly, I look like an idiot when I try doing it. And, above all, doing it for an extended period of time takes a degree of dedication, discipline and single-mindedness that is beyond the grasp of a humble hack such as me.
So it was that, a couple of weekends ago, I reluctantly pulled on my Sergio Tacchini trackie bottoms, set Eye of the Tiger to play on an endless loop on my iPod and set off on a miserable trudge up and down the Regents Canal, wistfully eyeing my favourite watering holes on the way.
Suffice to say, I am not a bright-eyed convert to the latter day church of physical perfection.
But don’t get me wrong; I’m trying to embrace my new lycra-clad self. I have even joined a Saturday morning running club, along with my mate Anjay - an architect who’s running for Notting Hill Housing Trust – and I’ve worked out that, if you add up all my training runs so far, I’m nearly at full marathon distance. And it’s only taken the best part of a month.
So, having cracked the running part of this gig (Come on Paula – it’s really not that hard), all I’ve got to do now is raise a bit of cash.
That’s where you, dear reader, come in…
HACT was set up to help improve the lives of those in marginalised communities. It is a charity whose raison d’etre is at the heart of what our sector should be about. They do incredible work up and down the country, which Nick and I will be highlighting in our weekly blogs. For readers of Inside Housing, there can surely be no worthier cause.
If you don’t want to sponsor me or Nick (we may have written something nasty about you in the past – sorry), there are 10 hardier souls who will be battling the wind and rain over the next 5 months to line up in Greenwich Park next April for HACT.
And, I can only hope, not a single novelty tache between them.