Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A ticket to ride

I have travelled solo to many places. But every time I have been somewhere, I have been in a little way accompanied.

My passport has been with me across borders and through airports; together we've taken boats, planes, rickshaws and tuk-tuks.

But after almost ten years together it is nearly time to say goodbye. My passport has officially 14 more days to live before I finally lay it to rest, after a something of a hard but fulfilling life.

It is probably a good thing that I get a new one. Firstly because the photo is right up there with the worst ever taken in the history of passports, but also because I'm increasingly getting funny looks at customs when they struggle to find a spare page to stamp.

If ever there was a suspicious passport filled with visas from Laos, India, Russia, Mongolia, China, India, Vietnam, Japan and so on, it is mine.

Monday, 21 September 2009

It's done

Well, I did it. 26 miles around the city of Berlin with 39,999 others on a beautiful sunny day.

A big thanks for all those pre-race good luck e mails and messages received from Switzerland, Tanzania, NZ, Cayman Islands and lots of other places in between. All your faces appeared in the crowd on my way around the course. Although perhaps that was just the delirium.

Here is a list of surprising facts about my Berlin marathon:
  • It didn't hurt as much as I thought it would
  • I felt very lucky to have put a knee bandage down the back of my pants, when at the 25km mark my gammy knee started to scream loudly. The bandage mostly muffled the screams
  • I haven't seen so many people throwing up at one time since my last high school party
  • It is actually quite possible to drink water / eat a banana and run without choking. Mostly
  • I actually managed to pass a lot of people who looked as if they should have been going a lot faster than they were. Likewise, there were a few 70 year olds that were faster than they really should have been
  • I does make you run faster when people shout your name
  • Porta-loos at marathons are far worse than regular porta-loos. Way too many nervous people in one place
  • Europeans have no qualms about outdoor full frontal nudity when changing post-marathon. The most entertaining bit of this is watching all the prudish English speakers very obviously divert their eyes en-masse
  • Running with 39,999 other people requires quite some concentration so as not to catch someone's heels and face plant the pavement
  • A post-marathon massage is always going to be a good idea, even if it does require you to stand in a queue for half an hour
So there you go. I've ticked that one off. Now it is time for my autumnal challenge to become a skipper.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The loneliness of the long distance runner

So here I am. Saturday night and I'm in my shoebox-sized hotel room in Berlin watching BBC News, my only English TV channel.

Clothing is laid out, complete with lucky hat; race number attached; timing chip shoe-laced in; pasta ingested.

Now all there is to do is to wait, and then sleep. And hush the little part of me that pipes up every now and then saying 'what the hell are you doing?! Why aren't you at home in London drinking wine with everyone else?'

Berlin in the sunshine

Despite a couple of shocks (my Lufthansa plane being rather too reminiscent of a golf cart and the reality of my accommodation as pretty much a Japanese capsule hotel) Berlin has charmed me.

It is alive and very busy this weekend as 40,000 people attempt 26 miles. My taxi driver told me disappointingly that he is far from a sportsman. 'I eat carbs before sleep' he admitted, as if it was a dirty secret.

Today was spent trying not to think about tomorrow. Just being a tourist. And what a great city it is to be a snap-happy, guidebook in bag, map in hand, tourist.

Berlin satisfies my secret love of communist architecture; my curiosity about cities brought to their knees by a war started less than a lifetime ago; and makes me realise I have an affinity with a country of practical, down to earth, no nonsense people.

It is a wide, flat city of massive squat buildings, surprisingly patchworked with large amounts of greenery. Bicycles buzz the streets, happily getting in the way of both pedestrians and motorists.

Tomorrow I get the grand tour; circumnavigating this great city on foot.

52 Shots #29

I stand on the remains of the wall that once divided a city

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Tapering off

Surely the best part of any marathon training plan is the 'taper'.

You have an excuse for sitting around, doing very little, and eating quite a lot. After all, it's what the schedule says you should do.

There is nothing like knowing that all the hard work is done. The Sunday afternoons of three and a half hour runs; a severe lack of red wine in my life; and way more laundry than I'm used to.

Just one last long run remains. All 26 miles of it.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

My piece of sky

My new bedroom has a window to the sky.

The other night from my bed I watched the stars peer out from a deep pool of blue. And when I awoke the next morning, there was a half moon centre stage. In the dim light of dawn he had a cagey look on his face as if he'd been caught after being out all night.

And now, as write this, I'm curled up in an oblong of Saturday afternoon sunshine watching the odd web-like cloud pass across my ever changing piece of sky.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Goodbye 77

I was skeptical at first, but soon enough I was converted to your ways. Not only are you an above ground form of transport, but you always provide me with a seat on which to quietly read my book of the moment, or share a TED talk podcast or two.

You avoid the worst of the traffic (unlike the 87) and after following the river with a view that tourists would pay for, you drop me nicely at Waterloo, giving me a riverside walk to round off my commute.

But now I have moved off your route, and as much as I'm very happy to be in a wonderful new house, I'm a little bit sad to know I'll have to find another big red bus to get me to and from work.