Wednesday, 23 December 2015


 December, December. What can you say about it? My favourite day-time run at the moment is up to the top of Arthur's Seat as fast as I can, and then down and round Whinny Hill and then there's a variety of finishes, depending on what I'm after. I've been trained by Peter always to take a camera, just in case I see something...but there's not much to see. It's been pretty windy at the top of the seat and I guess most of the students are away home, so there are fewer people.

At work. Apparently this is me? Honestly these people have no respect.

On the bus with only my phone to take pictures for Run Home Thursday. Impressionistic.

A house all lit up in Corstorphine on a dark Run Home Thursday.

My other favourite run has been over Corstorphine Hill in the dark to run home from work one night a week. I have the trail figured out now so it has been less eventful, but it's still very good to get out of the stale air of the office and under the trees and get a bit spooked in the dark.
It means getting home absolutely starving at about 7pm and forcing myself to get a shower before dinner.

The cycle-path is filthy and flooded and my bike will have no moving parts left if I don't clean it soon.
We're still  busy at work, trying to get waiting lists down and hit targets. It's dark most of the time.

So when our friend Jennifer posted up on the "book" that there's to be a St Magnus Marathon in Orkney in July next year the thought of some light and an adventure was irresistible. Biggest impulse buy of the year. 2 entries for the St Magnus Marathon and 2 return flights. I don't think I've been back to Orkney for about 13 years, and every year I think I might go - so next year is the year - and it takes care of which marathon to do for the club championships. But shhhh, don't tell the fast HBTs. They seem to turn up at all the most remote races.

Saturday, 12 December 2015

Persian Grey

"Have you done your Christmas shopping then?"
Yep it's all done. Well when I say done, what I mean is I took a bus along Princes Street the other day. I have a new routine in my life. It's called Run Home Thursday. In order to try and get 5 runs done in a week, I run home from work on a Thursday. In order to do that I have to get the  bus to work.
I'm pretty proud of run home Thursday. It hasn't been easy. I got lost on Corstorphine Hill in an absolute storm one Thursday night. My work colleagues told me that someone had killed, cut up and buried their mother there recently. Was I not afraid of seeing a ghost? Then they thought it might be just a bit of a ghost. Maybe just an arm or a foot. If your body gets cut up and buried on a hill, does your immortal soul likewise fragment? Science is silent on the subject.

I just wanted to show you some pictures from the bus. That's as close as I'll be getting to doing my Christmas Shopping. Quite enjoyed it actually.

Thick-necked swan.

Persian grey paint.

I wasn't really looking forwards to going out a run today. And then I convinced myself that maybe I could enjoy all the very subtle shades of grey, so I packed the little water-proof camera and off I went. You have to give yourself reasons in the winter.
I started off thinking I'd try to run fast round the road and then I remembered that I never signed up for a life of senseless grind. St Margaret's Loch has spilled right over the edges and has clearly even been across the road. The swans would have enjoyed that. I stopped to take a picture and have a breather. NOW I was enjoying myself more.
I ran up the road as fast as I could and had another breather at the wooden bench at the top - and took some pictures of all the subtle smoky greys in the distance. It put me in mind of when Peter and I decorated our living room 1000 years ago. We got obsessed with colour charts, as you do, and were trying to decide what colour to paint the door. We both fell for the chat on the colour chart about Persian Grey. I wish I had it now, but it was something along the lines of "this beautiful grey off-sets the jewel-like colours in Persian rugs and scarves, it is the backdrop that makes the gems glow with transcendent light". You know the kind of thing. So we got some Persian grey and we painted the door. But rather than lifting the colours in the room it was too dark - even industrial. We had to paint over it.

Back at the bench, I reluctantly acknowledged to myself that if I was taking photos across the Forth I should really make an extra effort and run up to the top of the seat. Setting off up the last steep bit from the road I had a wave of nostalgia for Gordon the Coach's "Triangulation" session, that used to come down the route I was using to climb up. It was a horror - 5 times up to the shoulder of the seat as quick as you could and jog down back to the road. I realised that it's possible to get nostalgic about absolutely anything, especially if there's no danger you're going to have to do it again. Gordon is safely retired now, and I can't make club sessions because of other commitments.
Then I realised that grey is actually the colour of nostalgia. It made sense at the time. Then I made it to the top and had another breather...

Then Mary Lye said "Hello Mary". OMG someone I know. Actually I don't really know Mary but I know she has a parallel life to me. She's done the same counselling course I have, she runs up hills, I think her first degree might have been in English and she writes a blog. We aren't exactly the same, obviously, but close enough so I wasn't sure we could safely be in the same place at the same time. I have known about Mary's existence for quite some time, and we have that strange intimacy that being FB friends gives you, but we've never spoken much. Also, I'd been up for hours but had only been spinning around in the fun park which is my own mind and hadn't actually spoken yet...

So I said a few unrelated  things, expecting Mary to be able to follow me. Anyway, it was nice to see her. After I'd said a number of random things her son reminded her that it was time to be moving on by tapping her gently on the shoulder with a stick. Ahhh,  non-verbal communication. So clear and concise. And then I ran home. The end.

Wednesday, 2 December 2015


I've been trying out this thing which I haven't been telling you about.

 It's very easy to burn out doing counselling work and last time I was at supervision it was clear I was getting there. Listening to other people's problems, it's easy to start to carry them. You can join people in feeling lost, over-burdened, discouraged and over-whelmed, and that doesn't do either of you any good. It's an old chestnut of counselling that you have to look after yourself. It's easy to say but it's not always so easy to know what you need. What can you do to keep your joie de vivre and sense of hope and fun?

I've always liked exploring things and one of the frustrating things I felt, growing up in Orkney, was that everything was always happening somewhere else. One of the things that delighted me in moving 'down South' was that there are so many things going on, so many things that can potentially be done. When I was younger the opportunities I availed myself of were chiefly staying up all night drinking, going to Fire Island High Energy sessions and dancing all night and then rolling out into the dawn a bit deaf....

Later I tried other things. I did Tai Chi for a while and liked it. I've done some night classes - a couple with Peter. We went to a creative writing class for a while in Leith. As fate would have it we met a guy there who we were later to meet in a climbing context. He wrote a memorable short story about a worky laying flooring, getting high on the solvents in the chemicals he had to use and the thoughts that were running through his head. I wonder if that story is still in existence.

So anyway, Clare, my supervisor, asked me what I could do for myself that would be good.
An idea popped into my head.
"I'd like to do some body work" I told her.
"What kind of body work?" she asked.
"Well I saw that there's this guy that does Rolfing in Edinburgh... ...but it's expensive."

I'm quite interested in whether there's a physical correlate for our psychological defences.
There were two things that touched on this theme that  I'd read about w-a-y back in the past. One was bioenergetics and one was rolfing. I was once given the phone number of someone who does bioenergetics, but that was back in the 90s. I didn't follow up on it at the time. There aren't a whole lot of people who do bioenergetics in the UK and there aren't a lot of rolfers either. But a couple of years ago, surfing aimlessly on the WWW, I'd come across the blog of someone who was doing rolfing in Edinburgh. At the time there was no way I could afford it. I thought about writing to the guy and asking if he'd do a student discount, but lost my nerve and forgot about it.

I know what you're thinking. "Stop saying 'Rolfing' like that's a thing, and explain yourself." Okay. I'll try, I think Rolfing sets out to work with your posture by manipulating the fascia on your body. I had read that this not only benefits you physically but also mentally, because your physical stance affects how you feel and vice-versa. That's probably a massive over-simplification.
There's an explanation of it here.

Wikipedia is rather dismissive of the whole thing saying that

"There is insufficient evidence to claim that Rolfing is effective for the treatment of any health condition"

But I'm a bit tired of all the bumbling on about evidence and evidence-bases. The closer you get to the subject the less substantial and convincing it all gets. There is insufficient evidence for a lot of things, but that shouldn't stop you trying things out for yourself.

Fast-forward. I have booked a session with James the Rolfer and there I am, stripping down to shorts and  a t-shirt.

This picture conveys my worst fears. Pony-tails, tummy control pants and serious faces. Courtesy of the European Rolfing Association Website.
I am having trouble explaining why I am there. Many of my most brilliant ideas are flashes of inspiration rather than wordy expositions and people who weren't in the know might think I was a bit mental. I tell him about my outy feet and a bit about why I'm there. I hadn't really thought about going  being anything to do with my running, but very quickly it becomes so.

In the first session he deftly finds all the sorest parts of my body and pokes them, sending some muscle between my back and my buttocks into a wild, twitching spasm. He says this is therapeutic gold....I can't actually remember everything about the earlier sessions - I should have been keeping a journal. The process is of having different areas of your body worked over, right in, really deep. The second session was my feet. There was so much damn pain in my feet! James says it should not really be painful, so I have stopped saying it hurts and started describing the sensation as "intense". Either I am sore all over or he magically finds the most tender spots. I concentrate on trying to relax and use what I know about pain management to tolerate what I am feeling. I try to concentrate on the sensation, allow it and not tense up and fight. Occasionally something relaxes and it's all easier. I don't mean to sound so mystical but I'm trying to talk about sensations in a layer of my body that I don't really know and have no words for. It is very absorbing in a way and the time passes quickly. Then he gets me to stand up and see how I am. I'm always a bit spaced out and floating, and gloriously pain-free.

What is really noticeable is that I am much less stiff.
Several sessions on it's becoming clear that he understands, and is helping me to understand, the different factors that add up to my distinctive 'Knees up Mother Brown' running style. At first I couldn't quite connect up what he was telling me, but I'm getting a more coherent sense of it as I focus on the areas he points out to me week by week. Whether my running style will change, I'm not sure. Forcing things is never a good idea. But I had a great run at the cross country on Sunday. I felt relaxed and comfortable in my body and I really enjoyed it.

I have an 'I'm not worthy' feeling about it all. Is it not a huge indulgence getting somebody to work on me so closely? Who do I think I am? But it's absolutely great. And the guy needs to work. He had to go to Colorado to train in Rolfing.

That is all I have to say about that!

For now anyway.