I gave blood yesterday. There’s sometimes a bit of a wait, so I grabbed a book to pass the time. Having finished my most recent fictional treat, I picked one off my desk – Room 121 by John Simmons and Jamie Jauncey.
The front cover proclaims it “a masterclass in writing and communication in business”. I say it’s a really good read.
It takes the form of a dialogue, a conversation between the two writers, sharing their thoughts, wisdom and experience of writing for many different kinds of business. And having spent many wonderful hours in their company on a couple of Dark Angels writing courses, I can hear John and Jamie’s voices in my head as I read it.
I opened it at random to find John speaking to Jamie about the joy of writing (page 119 if you’re interested). As a copywriter for a large company, it’s sometimes something hard for me to find. It’s a challenge to keep things fresh when you’re covering the same subjects or writing about the same products over a sustained period of time.
But I find ways. Sometimes I take a sideways approach, starting a draft in a deliberately different style, or with a word chosen at random from a nearby book. Or I begin the assault on the blank page by free writing, just spending 15 minutes or so taking my pen for a walk, writing non stop, banishing the inner editor and seeing where it takes me. There’s usually a phrase or combination of words, a nugget that gives me a way in to the next, more focused draft.
Yesterday’s moment of joy came from using the word ‘palaver’ in a piece I was writing. Palaver – what a wonderful playful word. Doesn’t it just make you smile? Don’t you want to say it? To feel it tumble around your mouth?
It’s not a word you might expect to see in a piece of business writing. But it was a direct quote from a customer, a fish and chip shop owner describing the experience of using his software saying: “There’s no faff. There’s no palaver.” Perfect. Real words. Authentic, natural and robust language. They gave me a small moment of joy. I reckon we need more of that in business writing.
NThis Saturday I volunteered once again at parkrun. It was the 4th anniversary of the event and a record breaking turnout of 525 runners at Newcastle. I was handing out number tokens with the smiley blonde lady who encouraged me on my first parkruns, who I now know as my friend Tove. I’m afraid we rather struggled to keep the finish line clear as the crowds came through as it was a very packed finish area, but it was great to be part of it.
By now I hadn’t run for 10 days, and there was no sign of discomfort from walking, so I kitted myself out for a test run. It was grey and drizzly, and the plan was to do a good warm up and drills, then run very easily for 4 mins and walk for 1 minute and repeat. So I made sure I had some good warm layers on and set out.
When running I kept the pace very easy, focusing on keeping good form – light on my feet, shoulders relaxed, thinking about all stages of the run. Of course, I felt like I wanted to keep on running, but the deal was to break it up with short walks and I did. These were useful as they helped me reset and remind myself to focus on form over speed or distance. I could just feel it starting to break down on the last repetition, so had a good easy warm down, stretched and hoped I wouldn’t have aggravated my niggle further. I’ve rarely enjoyed a damp, wet and cold run so much.
Today, all is well. No further pain, so I’ll build back into my running this week provided I have no more problems with my foot. But with a 25k indoor bike session and a 600m swim in the bag today after a decent week’s training, I reckon I’d be okay to get round a sprint tri if you told me there was one next weekend, so that’s not a bad place to be early on in the year.
Meet my friend Nicki. While I take to the roads and trails here in the North East of England, she tackles the roots, dust and mud in the southern parts of Australia. While she sweats under the unforgiving sun, I’m wrapping up to face the frost.
We’re both runners and love to write, so we’ve started a joint blog:
Running Up Top Down Under is a conversation between two runners at the opposite ends of the earth. An insight into two writing runners and proof that when it comes to running, there’s always someone in the world who understands.
I’ll still blog here and let you know when there’s something you might be interested in ‘Up top or down under’. It promises to be an adventure. So check it out and let us know what you think.
It’s been another good year of training and competing in triathlons and road races for me. And it’s good to look back at what I’ve achieved as well as planning for the future.
Let’s start with the numbers:
Swim: 42.1 miles/ 36 hours – only just a bit less than last year’s swim mileage
Bike:956 miles / 86 hours – that’s the most I’ve ever cycled in one year (hours to miles don’t quite add up as there were a lots of indoor bike sessions where I logged time but not distance)
Run: 526 miles / 85 hours – not my biggest yearly run mileage, but I didn’t have a half marathon to train for
Cross training: 76 hours – including boxercise, yoga, weights and PT sessions
That’s a total of 283:48 training or racing hours in 2013. It’s the most I’ve ever trained in one year.
I’ve completed 6 run races of up to 10k distance and enjoyed many more timed runs at parkrun
And I completed 6 triathlons in 2013, including my first two Olympic distance events and my first sea swim.
I studied for and passed two fitness related qualifications – Level 2 Gym instructor in March and Level 1 triathlon coaching in November
My swimming improved thanks to some training sessions with my PT early on in the year as he trained for his coaching qualification. I’ve spent more hours and done more miles on my bike than any other year and enjoyed it more than I have before, especially when I’ve had the chance to go riding in Scotland with my tri chums.
I have walloped time off in my second season of triathlons, including a 10 min PB at the QE2 sprint triathlon, with improvement in all three sections.
There was another memorable day at the Olympic Parkrun. It was an amazing experience to do it the first time, so to go back, post the Olympics, with my expectations high … well they weren’t disappointed.
And the Blaydon race is still my favourite event, particularly as I managed to go under 50 minutes this year.
I’ve enjoyed volunteering at parkrun and I know I’ve inspired a few people to dip their toes into triathlon.
With no races longer than 10k, it’s inevitable my run mileage was down on previous years, but that will change as I take on a half marathon again in 2014.
Reflections and aims for 2014
I wanted to find a better balance in my training and to give myself a season with a true tri focus. It did pay dividends as my tri times improved and I felt more confident swimming in open water and taking on the longer distance events. But, as always, there are areas for improvement.
I did miss taking part in the Great North Run in 2013. It was lovely to see all my friends and shout encouragement from the Tyne Bridge, but I did feel like I was missing out on the party, even on a cold and dreary day.
So I’ll be back in again in 2014. The challenge will be to switch from tri focus at the end of July to get myself in shape to run 13.1 miles by the beginning of September. I’ll see how I feel nearer the time as to whether or not I set myself a time goalIn 2014 I want to maintain a good balance of training hard but not putting too much pressure on myself, and most importantly to enjoy my training. I’ll pick my key races to go hard, and others I’ll do for the experience or the fun. There will be a good mix of challenges, including my first ever river swim in the Tyne.
My first race isn’t until April – and right now that seems a long way away. But it will soon come around. I’ve entered a few popular races already and I’m sure I’ll fill up my calendar with a few more as they open up for entries. I’m looking for another standard triathlon – preferably one that I can easily travel to from the North East of England, so any suggestions are welcome.
I’m also currently on 76 parkruns, so only 24 away from 100. It would be great to achieve that in 2014, but I need to balance them out against other training and races. And of course, I’ll be doing my fair share of volunteering too.
Getting fit, starting to run and then taking on the challenge of triathlon has really changed my life over the past six years. I’m sure I never imagined achieving a fraction of what I’ve done when I first stepped out onto the beach and tried to run a length of the sands. It’s taken me to some great places, given me some amazing experiences and brought me life-long friends. Oh, and made me fitter and healthier too!
So if you’re thinking you want to make some changes to your life, I can thoroughly recommend it. Just remember, start small – I couldn’t run a mile when I first started. Find something you enjoy, but that challenges you. Commit to make it a habit and go out and get moving!