But, as I tentatively laced up my trainers to join my friend Rachel Mai-Jones on her specially designed course along the Thames Path, I had no idea how far round I’d actually get.
I had done zero Marathon training due to badly inuring my left leg during my first week of training in June.
But once I was out with Rachel on Marathon Sunday, crossing part of the main London Marathon route, I slowly started to relax, enjoy every step and be purely in the moment. I wasn’t running for a time.
I was running purely for the enjoyment, being with my friends, dissolving into something bigger than myself, raising money for our local charity, South London Special League.
Rachel had designed a beautiful Virtual Marathon – including tea and home-baked fruit cake stops along the way from her mobile support van! We ran along some of the main London Marathon route in Greenwich and Woolwich followed by a gloriously sunny loop with friends along the Thames Path from Woolwich to the Thamesmead Pumping Station and back.
It was a magical day, showing me what’s possible when we all pull together. Being in the present moment with friends, their positive energy driving me on from injury, running together for a great cause.
Donate towards a new powerchair for Greenwich Powerchair Football club here.
Leon finally emerges from his deep coma and the nightmares caused by the accident that almost killed him in hopsital. He’s been given a test treatment, Syndrome K. As he takes more of the drug, an unexpected side effect emerges: the startling increase in his intelligence.
Not particularly academic at school, Leon notices with astonishment how K opens up his mind and his perception. The drug makes Leon first notice and then begin to understand strange patterns, the interconnectedness of art, music, science, everything that surrounds us.
But the drug soon starts to take over and Leon becomes increasingly enmeshed inside his own consciousness, turning ever more inward while his brain searches restlessly for the ultimate Gestalt, the pattern that underpins the entire universe.
Award-winning US writer Ted Chiang’s sci-fi thriller was published in 1991 and explores with rich lyrical density, what it is like to become ever more self-aware. The sad irony: the more self aware and hyper intelligent Leon becomes, the more he’s becoming locked inside his own head, separated from the rest of humanity while seeing how connected we all are, the strands of energy that vibrate between person to person.
‘Benevolence’ muses Leon, ‘being able to bestow generosity on other people. How many emotions are required by the presence of another person….’
Leon creates his own language from all the languages of the world so he can express the inexpressible. He writes a poem ‘which is like combining Finnegan’s Wake and Pound’s Cantos…’
Ted Chang’s book is packed with rich descriptions: Leon’s search for the ultimate Gestalt and the struggle to describe what lies beyond the capabilities of human language – yet still having to use language to describe what lies beyond words and most mere mortals’ comprehension.
Gestallt – the patterns and the systems that underpin us, climb inside and understand the secret machinations of the universe…
After his third dose of K, Leon watches his mind watching itself working itself out, each time creating chemical reactions and interconnections. Leon’s watching himself watching himself fall into ever deeper understanding but the more understanding, the less that is understood as the universe expands out in a giant fractal. Soon, he’s using more of his brain than any other human in existence but his mind is getting too big for his brain, a mere piece of organic matter, to contain.
‘ Exploring the nature of reality and existence – that life is an illusion, that life is just a dream – that the true reality is just out of reach. That to be biologically concious means we can never get to ultimate reality – our thoughts, our emotions, our attachments constantly getting in the way.’
Patterns everywhere. Life ending and beginning across the globe one second at a time. The condition inexorably changing as time moves constantly forwards one moment to the next. Steam rises from the subway, smoke curls up from the bonfire, the child laughs, the clouds chase each other across the sky.
Plane trails, leaves falling, people walking. The exhalation of my breath running on a cold Autumnal day.
The universe: zero point, one giant fractal. Half into half into half and back out again.
Further Thoughts and Reading
There was a definite mind expanding, examining theme to this weekend. The trailer at the end of Episode 3 was for The Haunting of Alma Field.
One of the most challenging things I have ever done…
I spent much of Friday afternoon staring apprehensively out of the window at the rain pouring down relentlessly. Visions of me twisting my ankle in Oxleas Woods led to a rapid rethink of my planned route. The carefully mapped out circular route via the Green Chain and Oxleas Woods seemed a wonderful idea on a crisp Autumnal day, less so during a downpour.
First loop – Westcombe Park, Blackheath, Lewisham Way to Cator Park and back – 14 miles
The only other people I saw out that day were bedraggled dog walkers and other marathon runners, easily identifable even if their numbers weren’t visible under their wet weather gear by the look of stoic determination. As we passed each other, we high-fived and continued our unique journeys towards the magic 26.2 miles, step by wet and soggy step.
Second Loop – Westcombe Park, Thames Path to Rotherhithe and back – 12 miles
Final 6 miles – run a couple of steps, walk a couple of steps to a landmark a little in the distance. A car, a statue, a lampost. Wince, walk, swear, run repeat…
My neighbours saw me run out and were following me on the Virgin Marathon app. They were waiting for me to stagger back round the corner. I’d miscalculated the final 0.2 miles which meant I’d finished at the bottom of the hill instead of at the top. I very nearly flagged down a bus to take me that final bit.
Once Lockdown is over, South London Special League are going to spend the money we raised to provide tennis on Friday morning in Greenwich Park.
Sunday October 3rd 2021 will be my second London Marathon. I’ll be running once more for South London Special League, helping raise money for Friday Morning tennis in Greenwich Park. I’m looking forward to watching the sessions and the players develop over the year and will provide an update here.
31km, 19.2 miles. My longest distance ever. I was running a steady, much slower pace than I’d originally planned; once more I found myself naturally speeding up for the final 4km and actually enjoying the run.
26.2 miles amazingly now feels achievable. I just need to figure out the final part of my route and avoid the strangely magnetic presence of the A205 South Circular when I reach Eltham…
The next part is still TBC as I lost the Green Chain route and ended up on the A205 South Circular for the third time. The plan on the day is to continue on the Green Chain route to Oxleas Wood, pick the Thames at Woolwich and loopback until I reach 26.2 miles.
Beckenham back to Greenwich: Change of scene via BBC Sounds. I travelled to nineteenth century Russia and a classic tale of doomed romantic love with Anna Karenina – imagining Beckhenham Mansion (below) was the place where Count Vronksy abandons Kitty to dance with Anna for the first time…
Where I awarded myself a Personal Best for Distance – not for time, this was one of my slowest runs ever – more like a fast walk in parts! However, this was my first long run where not only my legs weren’t screaming at me to stop for the final 2km, but where, amazingly, I was actually picking up speed for the final few km instead of slowing right down.
So there’s a first marathon lesson – run much slower than you normally would for the first half.
Next October with one marathon under my belt, I will focus on improving my time. This year, I’m focusing on enjoying the unique London Lockdown Marathon experience and raising money for South London Special League.
The playlist this week moved between The Prodigy Experience, Arab Strab’s Monday at the Hug and Pint and The Last Romance, Baxter Dury’s Prince of Tears and Marhaba by Maalem Mahmoud Guinia.
The green contemplative peace of Beckenham Woods – another part of London I didn’t know existed before marathon training.
Following the Green Chain from Beckenham to the Tudor / art deco architecture fusion of Eltham Palace.
13 miles on what is now my usual running route – Blackheath, Lewisham, Waterlink Way to Beckenham and back.
Next week I’ll be in Block Three of training. And that means it’s 5 weeks until the world’s first Virtual London Marathon on October 4 2020 and my very first marathon.
Today’s soundtrack was Jon Hopkins’ soaringly gorgeous Singularity, Underworld’s pounding Everything, Everything live album, finishing off with the Prodidgy’s seminal Music for the Jilted Generation. Steve Lamaq and 6 Music’s Album Club played this album out in all its uncensored, anarchic, energetic musical fury on 19 August 2020 and what a glorious, glowing, raving listening party that was. All these years later and it’s lost none of its urgent rawness.
And I celebrated by runing futher than I’d ever run before, training for my virtual London marathon for local charity South London Special League.
28km or 17.4 miles (and I really did feel the final two km….!)
Accompanying me on my run was Zero Point, a rather fine deep house mix by Duncan Marley, including tracks from Omar S, Small People, Super Discount and Francoise K.
I discovered new parts of London via the Green Chain and Capital Ring routes, picking these up at Beckhenham (after coming off the Waterlink Way) getting slightly lost in Beckhenham Mansion grounds and then finished at Eltham Palace. What I should have done here is continued along the quiet routes to Oxleas Woods and Woolwich. Instead, I headed down the relentless South Circular just as I was starting to feel the miles and needed maximum distraction.
The no filter photos – just the quick snap with my iPhone 7 as I run past:
Blackheath. Welcome to your birthday.
Discovering a new building – Beckenham Mansion. Turned a corner and there it was.
Photoshop out Canary Wharf and I could be deep in the countryside.
Panoramic view – central London in the distance on the left, Canary Wharf and Greenwich to the right. Eltham Palace a couple of miles ahead.