I went off climbing again yesterday, which went well. One wall I went… - John C. Kirk
Jul. 9th, 2003
I went off climbing again yesterday, which went well. One wall I went on (a 3+) is the first one I ever climbed (when I went to Westway two weeks ago), which completely terrified me at the time, whereas yesterday I was able to go up and down it quite quickly. There's another one (a 4) which I got completely stuck on the first week, as I was wearing jeans, so I couldn't get my leg up to the first hold. Then last week I got up a few feet, but no further. Yesterday, I got half-way up on my first attempt, and all the way on my second attempt. I did a couple of new walls too, which is interesting, but it's quite a nice ego boost to see the same wall get easier. The proper shoes definitely make a difference, even if they are dye-ing my feet yellow in the process.
As well as climbing, I also did some belaying. Rough translation for non-climbers: the person climbing the wall has a rope tied to them. This rope goes up to the top of the wall, through a pulley, and back down to the bottom of the wall, where another person (the belayor) holds on to it. So, as the climber ascends, the belayor takes in the slack, and when the climber descends, the belayor lets out the rope. The most important bit is that if the climber falls off the wall, the belayor needs to hold onto the rope, so that the climber just dangles, rather than plummeting to the ground. Now, skill-wise this is pretty simple. And there's no particular strength required - thanks to the pulleys involved, I can support another adult's weight one-handed. However, it is a big responsibility. So, while this is all routine, there's a definite element of trust involved, and it's gratifying that the people I climb with do have that much trust in me.
Moving on, I've chosen a coach ("O'Keefe") for the 10km Nike London Run.
When I was a kid, I was never really the athletic type. I did do a bit of cross-country running at primary school (which I found more interesting than the sports day races), but I was never very good at it. There was one time when I took part in an inter-school competition, but I was just a reserve for that, so the reserve people raced independently of the real teams. I do remember that near the end of the course, there was a narrow stream (maybe 1 metre wide), and everyone was jumping over it. As I got closer, some other children (acting as marshalls, to give directions) were saying to everyone "You don't have to jump, you can just splash through it - it's not deep". By that time I wasn't feeling very energetic, so this seemed like a good plan. Up until the point where I found myself waist-deep in water. Apparently I was the first person who'd believed them... Anyway, (probably motivated by guilt) they ran with me the rest of the way to the finish line, to keep me company, since I think I was about the last person to finish.
Moving on to secondary school, we had an annual steeplechase competition (2.5 mile run through fields, woods, etc.) between the different boarding houses, which everyone had to take part in, so we'd have to do practice runs for this in advance. This always annoyed me a bit, since one punishment (less severe than a detention) was a "drill", which meant running 4 times round a field. It seemed odd that the compulsory activity was worse than the punishment, but I was a bit of a brat in those days. Anyway, the average time for this was about 20-25 minutes. My average time was about 1 hour, mainly because I walked most of the way rather than running.
When we went out on these runs, the housemaster (Mr Sutcliffe) would run with us, and as the pack spread out, he'd pick a few people to run next to for a few minutes, then either speed up or slow down to run with someone else. So, from the lazy point of view, this meant "run enthusiastically for a little while, then stop and walk once he's gone". This normally worked fine, until one week when he decided to run next to me for the entire course! So, after my brief burst of running, I was a bit surprised when he was still there. But every time I tried to slow down, he'd tell me to keep running. I wasn't used to this... I'd like to say that he inspired me to greater effort, but that's not quite how it worked. My view was that there was no way I could actually keep running for the entire time, so I took the bolshy attitude of "Right, fine, I'll keep running until I collapse, then he'll be sorry, because he'll see that I was right and he was wrong". As it turned out, I didn't collapse, and I actually finished the course in about 23 minutes. The boys who were keeping track of times (not running because they had a sick pass) almost fell over when they saw me there that early, but I think I was even more surprised than they were.
Actually, I think this story is quite typical of my time at CH - there were things that I hated at the time, but which did me a lot of good in the long run. So, I'm grateful to the teachers (particularly Mr Sutcliffe) who saw my potential, and made the effort to get me to realise it.
Anyway, after that, I did better in the weekly runs, as I'd keep running the whole way without having someone next to me. I even wound up doing voluntary runs when I got older. I kept this up when I went to university in Durham, normally going out 2-3 times a week, and I ran for my college a few times.
Unfortunately, since I left Durham, I've fallen out of practice. The main problem is that running along the river-bank, when there's nobody else around, is a lot more appealing than running along a crowded street breathing in car fumes. Consequently, I got more fat, and less fit. I've been been doing more exercise lately (swimming and climbing), and lost some weight, but I think I'd be out of breath if I tried running more than 100m nowadays.
When I saw some of my Durham friends last week, they recommended that I should take up running again. Then dynix mentioned the Nike run today, which I've seen various posters for. So, I can take a hint! I'm not sure whether I'll do the main run, but the training should be useful. And I've deliberately chosen a coach who will push me, rather than saying "run at your own pace".
This afternoon I picked up my provisional exam results from Kings. My grade is "part passed", along with the vast majority of the MSc students. This means that I've passed at least 6 of the 8 exams, but I haven't passed the project (because it isn't finished yet). So, nothing amazingly revealing there.