DNS, or, health is the most important

Did not start. Didn’t even bother. Didn’t turn up. I hate that: I’ve always loved racing, sixty seven last year was testament to that. I would have had a hundred if it weren’t for a meddling injury and being coached rather more seriously from early September.

I had a choice to race today, and a chance to follow up on my first victory in the MET League (London cross country League for the uninitiated) last month with another. It would have been easy to say that I was unambiguously injured or ill, and that I had a cast iron reason for staying at home. I didn’t: I had a doubt (a calf strain), and had to assess the balance of value at stake. It ultimately came down to a subjective decision I wasn’t certain about.

Things very often happen like that. We live with doubt all our lives. I initially typed: ‘all our loves’, and sadly that’s often also true. A lot of the time we hold things back from the people we love most because we worry about how they’d react. As I’ll write about elsewhere, I spent a long time doing that with my parents in respect to mental health and the hopes I had, or didn’t have, for the future. That changed a lot in mid-June.

Their support and belief has been enormously important to me over the years, and I’m always delighted to know that I can offer them pride and hope through the simple act of running around in a circle.

I run, especially, for a couple of other people too.

As much as I’d like to think going to the world championships would have made some significant difference to the last weeks of my grandmother’s life, I know honestly that it wouldn’t. Ever since her death I’ve thought of lifting my hands skywards after every race win, to dedicate it to her memory. I did that at the last London cross country league race. To try and do it again today would not only be foolish, but it would also disregard her last piece of advice to me: “health is the most important”.

I also really wanted to run today for someone else who might have been there. I wanted to show them how much difference they’ve made to my life, within the small world of athletics, and outside it. These, I suppose, were relatively selfless or at least outward-facing motives.

Yet, I also wanted to run for my ego. I wanted to show off, and have the chance to demonstrate just how good I was. I wanted to win, and that’s not wrong in itself. I wanted to be seen winning, and that’s something I’m less comfortable with. Is it wrong? For me, yes: that’s not who I want to be.

I often enjoy finding lines of writing and pieces of poetry that I can keep aside for later use, like a spare Oyster card (incidentally necessary this week as I lost mine) or a bit of tupperware that’s just the right size for that salad you always make.

This one’s significant for lots of reasons I might share elsewhere, but it stands more than well enough alone:

Your absence goes through me like a needle through thread
Everything I do is stitched with its colour

I so often think about granny when I race. In one session in April, I told myself, rather firmly: ‘remember why you’re here Kirky’ (because I never just call myself Adam). It worked, and I produced something that was perhaps even better than I managed in races last summer.

I have the chance to earn my first Irish vest in two weeks. If I do, she’ll never see it. Her absence in an existential sense breaks my heart.

That’s the thing with hearts though. They don’t stop beating when they break metaphorically, they don’t give up. We shouldn’t either, nor use that as a reason to withdraw from the world. I did that before, in very different circumstances, and on many occasions last summer I needed to be brave enough not to. I will again in the future.

That said, I also need the courage to walk away from a race like this rather than taking a risk. Another friend I spoke to this week said that I was a bit of an adrenaline junkie. She was right, as much as I might like to pretend otherwise.

I’m ‘writing‘ (in a very loose sense, like I used to be ‘reading‘ 10 books at a time) another piece called ‘hooked on risk‘. I’m pleased to be able to let myself off the hook on this occasion, and put my health before my desire to roll the dice and show off.

There’s far more I could write, but I’ll reluctantly admit that, like speeches, these pieces are often better short than long.

My grandmother, and so many other people we care about, may be gone, but they are not lost to us. We should pick up the thread and carry on, rather than leaving it behind. We owe them that much.

 

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19 days old, yet still two weeks ahead of schedule. I’ve always been trying to beat the clock.

 

 

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A city boy (poem)

I wrote this last summer, and having departed ‘the City’ in particular if not in general it’s nice to look back from the surprisingly friendlier world of a running shop in Canary Wharf. I suspect I’ll never be able to produce a wad of £50 notes when faced with a malfunctioning card machine standing in between me and an expensive running watch, but I’m not sure I’d want the capacity to either. Sure, I know that James Watt and Matthew Bolton share space on the highest denominational note, but the pair haven’t seen the inside of my pockets! There’ll be more proper writing soon. Perhaps.

He’ll pull a fast one every time, but never pull a punch,
He’ll solely look out for himself, on alert for a free lunch.
The city boy, not city man, he runs from consequence,
Who cares who pays the later pound; As long as he can squeeze some pence.

If there’s a bus, he’ll throw you under,
He’ll bolt a moment after thunder,
He’d buy a lion, but no heart,
He’ll always duck doing his part.

Of course he’ll work and grind away,
Most waking hours that fill the day,
But only when this serves his pay,
He’ll always keep his morals grey.

Upon such men a city’s built,
Upon a river, harbours guilt.
What once was stone now shining screen,
A bleak lament for what has been.

Lots of writing, but just a poem to show for it

Despite writing, in no exaggeration, well over ten thousand words of vaguely (blog) publishable content over the last four months, the moment of actually pressing the enticingly clickable ‘publish’ button has been endlessly snoozed. Like an alarm that you’ve set on a weekend to avoid wasting the morning, the only imperative to finish anything is a general sense of doing something worthwhile with time designated as spare.

As a significant portion of that time is spent running, doing activities related to running (stretching, strength exercises and jumping over things, mostly hurdles that I should be jumping over, occasionally other things), or thinking of running, I can be a bit listless the rest of the time. Listless, that is, apart from the constantly proliferating ‘to-do’ lists, featuring absurdities like (I kid you not) ‘review all previous to-do lists, collate and synchronise’, and, even more ridiculously: ‘backdate diet with receipts’ from July 2014. Needless to say the fact I still have that intact list, along with tens of others is testament to my failure to collate or synchronise anything.

With pieces of writing, I always find them partly started or half finished, with just enough material for me to know where I was going and someday venture in that direction again. I tend to finish poems, in that a first draft is produced with promises to ‘refine’ or not doubt ‘collate’ the words with some other witty thought buried alongside hundreds of other notes. In that spirit then, here’s something with no title I thought of mostly during a long run. It’s not complete, but in the spirit of actually finishing something, it’s complete enough to be going on with. More to come, perhaps.

 

The title, to choose something rather than nothing, is ‘a wooden form’.

 

The bough, in bending to the wind, resists by knowing it must yield,
Arms fend the swirling bluster off, with lissome limbs compose a shield.

Spry willow of new wood is wrought, a pliant will that knows its end,
These broken branches can be whittled, shattered but with strength to lend.

It breaks each time, but yet breaks later, body holds for longer, still,
The limits move from frame to mind, the form has done the work it will.

It matters not if mind’s cast down, drive tired limbs with ropes of thought,
Take strength from each resisting fibre, focus not on what is ought,

The wisps of hope, these threads, can help, if we can follow where they lead,
In each failed attempt, is strength, in each fallen fruit a seed.

Smith’s birch might offer shelter here, a story that has much to teach,
By all means travel, learn and wonder, yet ever know how far to reach.

If we strive out with arms of flesh, we must keep one eye on the flame,
Despite all our earthly delights, there is a darkness we must name.

None of us may live forever, but don’t let’s hurry to the halt,
Each, in every gilded moment, breathe with joy, forget, exalt.

Two jars of pebbles on the shore

Be careful with your vote, they said, ‘look out for us’ they mutter,
We’ll lose all of our fiscal clout, vote in, the politicians stutter,
What’s this financial benefit, ask the millions, empty hands,
Cry all you want, swear and weep, the country’s set on shifting sands.

A campaign spoke to those ignored,
The ‘feckless’ benefitting fraud,
We’ll get them out, we’ll save your land,
bring it back to something grand.

The London bubble floats around,
each voice an echo, makes no sound,
The rich, the educated classes,
Happily, they raise their glasses…

We’ll all be in, they’ll all be out, the wealthy immigrants all cry,
The country’s ours, this old, green land, cut apart like bits of pie,
We’ll take your houses, take your jobs, and leave you none the wiser,
Gone are your country mansions, castles, the cartoonish English miser.

What bitter lies, but now too late, the sands of time have slipped away,
How many would, if they’d the chance, go back and turn the other way?
The pebbles in the voting jar cannot be moved by air or water,
Led along, the poorest voices, carried all of them to slaughter.

‘What’s this European Union’, ask a thousand searching queries,
We should have told you, Laboured birds, on their way off home to eyries,
The blue blood hydra lost its head, two more will fight each other now,
Shouldn’t we protect the country? We need to move together: how?

Was there no plan, was this the play, was this madness all Unknown?
Purely then, a power game, a chessboard waiting to be thrown?
I’ve got no water, I’ll spit blood, I’ll bite my lip with hate, betrayed,
At what cost, and for what reason, was St George’s Dragon slayed?

This lizard’s not the only wyrm, a putrid bullfrog pulls the strings,
A ‘patriotic’ English cape thinly veils what’s within.
Just below its skin it seems the mythic beast is made of straw,
Our once old friends and allies stop, turn from this ‘patriotic’ maw.

Poem – on depression

The words sit still upon the page, lifeless markings show their age,
The life they need lies in your mind, a step ahead, a step behind,
These books you turned to, seeking solace, offer only sealed doors,
Look at your feet, the steps are blood, making scars upon the floors.

These incisions, cuts remain, upon the mind, not form, a stain,
Not to be shown off, or seen, forever hidden by a screen.
For this is a wall of lies, that veils cruelly what’s within,
Its opaque surface lets in none, turns all joy into a sin.

But the others still will help, to seek to breach this shadowed wall,
Bodies flung against its side, when it cracks, they’ll break your fall.
Do not forget to ask, to call, to try to send your message through,
You’ll need to shout, you’ll need to scream, most outside just say you’re blue

Autumn (thought of on a run in Regent’s Park)

A scattered flurry of orange, auburn and bronze arrest a wandering glance, as lacquered carpet of ephemeral flakes spreads across the grass like spilt honey.

Forests exhale as they cast off their shimmering cloaks to embrace a winter of dwindling white.

Protean castes of leaf bearers mutter with colourful voices, yet the world pauses only to snatch at a fading moment with a thousand grasping lenses.

Each capturing face, unlistening, watches through silver eyes as they share the moment only with themselves.

Each autumn speaks quieter than the last, yet numberless more wait to arrive as hope carves a path for time, meandering along.