Author: Martin

GCR #7 – HIT-RYS

Hitchin isn’t far from Letchworth, but it feels an extra degree removed: it’s not a stop on the fast service from Royston. Only slow trains stop here. This is a slow run from Hitchin. For how long can I keep going? Most roads have a field beside them. It’s not always easy to get back on to the road from the field, however. Thickly brambled wild hedges are impenetrable. But usually there’s an exit eventually, maintained by a steady trickle of trespassing walkers. I’m off the Icknield Way and through Norton Common. Leaves are beginning to fall. Then through the fields towards Ashworth. The wheat crackles in the wind like popcorn. Sometimes it is bronze, sometimes blonde. Reaching marathon distance seems feasible at this point. A place called Arbury Banks is signposted: it’s an old hill fort, 1000-700BC. This may be the site of a battle in which the Romans defeated Boudicea, a tribal queen and leader of a British alliance hoping to force the Romans to brexit. Tacitus describes a confident Roman governor of …

GCR#6 – AWM – RYS

6.1. The route from Ashwell and Morden’s station (actually in Odsey) is now familiar. It’s cloudy, at the early cusp to rain. The movement feels easier than last week: looser, more relaxed. I watch the watch less. Research says that if you smile or laugh then you’ll feel better. What is cause and effect in our minds? I laugh at myself running and it comes out as a cough. To go for a run is a choice, like it is to do any job. You don’t know how it will turn out. You might regret it part way through because you find yourself more tired than you thought you’d be. But it’d be strange to blame yourself for making the choice to go. It’s more complicated when other people are involved. Chester v Afshar [2004] UKHL 41 was a medical negligence case centred on the question of causation. A neurosurgeon operated on a patient and operated well. But the patient suffered a complication that she wasn’t warned could happen. The patient (now claimant) confirmed that …

GCR#5 – LET-RYS

At the end of a tiring run I inevitably think about not really wanting to run again. But after a bit of time I forget that feeling and feel like going out again, perhaps going further. The mind is fluid, nothing is fixed, but some grooves are more worn than others. I aim for the Icknield Road from Letchworth Station then trace the Icknield Way. Navigating distracts me and I don’t really notice the first five or six kilometers. The modern version of the pre-Roman route is well-maintained. How will you measure your life, Clay Christensen asks. His ideas blur the boundary between the personal and business. First, he explains that the theory of disruption says that what causes businesses to fall is that someone comes in at the bottom of the market and moves up. Running is disruptive. It takes time, it’s a fundamental activity. It is tiring. At some point after Ashwell I notice that I’m getting too warm. This is the inflection point. From here on it’s important to preserve energy and …

GCR#4- AWM-RYS

I prepare for the first afternoon run from the return commute. I admire people who run their commute regularly. There aren’t many, but the ones I notice look very serious about it. A day is like a run, with peaks and troughs. I think my peak is in the mornings, the afternoon is about keeping as much of the momentum as possible. But you can’t always choose your route. I’ve begun to notice the space around my limits. Energy limits, knee limits, other tolerance limits. It’s easy to notice when you’re at the edge, but it’s harder to determine the sequence or path that leads up to it. At what point does wakefulness turn towards tiredness? The transitions are all smooth if one pays attention but abrupt if one doesn’t. The train from King’s Cross is cancelled so I’m on a slower one from St. Pancras. The commute feels different in running clothes. A step removed. Out of the station and past cars parked at the side of the road, commuters. No parking tickets, it’s …

GCR#3 – BDK-AWM

My right knee aches a bit, has been aching all week. Perhaps I should take a longer break. But a break would interrupt the flywheel of habit, which has only just begun spinning slowly. I want to keep that momentum. It’s a bit foggy in Royston. I’m worried about the dual carriageway from AWM. It will be less busy if I get that done first. But the Baldock train comes first, so that settles it. Baldock’s church spire is a highlight in the scenery around the line to London. A short stretch by a road then through a field to an overpass. There should be one of these for AWM too. Time passes faster on a new route. The sun is against me, the tarmac is smooth in the middle of the road like obsidian and reflects the sun. There’s a hedge by the side of the road, and the sun is exactly at its edge so that I am bobbing in and out of its shade. There was another feature on running in the …

GCR #2 – RYS-AWM-RYS

Calf muscles seize into fits of tightness over five days. Time to rest. The short sprints to catch trains after work don’t help. A short run on Saturday over softer ground is a test, with new, chunkier shoes to protect against the impact of hard roads in the months ahead. Thibaut Pinot, a favourite on the Tour de France is forced to give up. He weeps. He wants it too much, perhaps. Expectation becomes a weight, magnified internally. The root of suffering is attachment. Murakami cites a mantra snatched from a feature on running in the International Herald Tribune: Pain is inevitable. Suffering is optional. Is that so? To keep on going you have to keep up the rhythm. This is the important thing for long-term projects… The problem is getting the flywheel to spin at a set speed—and to get to that point takes as much concentration and effort as you can manage. Haruki Murakami I’ve bought a running vest to carry water and a telephone. Light rain drizzles. Perfect weather. The plan was …

GCR #1 – AWM to RYS

An FT article about running⁠—part of a series called “Rise of the Runners”⁠—activates a latent will to run longer distances. An idea forms: could I run the morning commute from Royston to King’s Cross? Along quiet roads, the distance is about seventy kilometers. In building up to it I could explore the route around the line, run between stations. Glossy videos from an earphone manufacturer capture aspects of the attraction to running. The cost of the Annual Gold Card for a year of train travel between Royston and London was £4936. It will allow me to shuttle between new running tracks. Today marks the start of the Gold Card Running project: Runs between stations on the Royston to London line(s). On Saturday morning I had managed only 3km. A perfunctory restart. Travel and then a cough sapped momentum. A reduction in fitness feels like a gradual loosening of the body. The mind too is less sharp. Long-distance running has appeal: a slice of freedom carved out from the normal flow of events. Murakami wrote about …