Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Running Man (Less Exciting Than The Film Of The Same Name)

I'm pretty sure that I didn't blog about my first experience of running last year, when I did the Manchester 10K. This is probably due to me being busy writing the corrections to my PhD thesis on a cocktail of depression, rage and hate, which is enough to distract anyone. Today I ran it again, so here are my impressions.

Having run the course in 01:07:ish last year, I really wanted to run it in under an hour this time. Last year's time had also proved that I could run in the next group up, the "Green Wave", rather than the Pink Wave which starts out the latest and is the biggest, including many fun-runners. In a remarkable bit of serendipity, the fact that I randomly wandered onto Great Portland Street from the direction of the bus station meant that I ended up about 7-8 rows from the front of the wave, while people who had actually followed the instructions to wait in side streets until summoned were behind me. This was potentially useful in that it can be tiring and time-consuming to be constantly weaving in and out of other runners.

As last year, I tried my best to ignore the official warm-up, although I did do some of the stretching exercises. At one point I'm pretty sure the promise was made that we were going to be started by Haile Gebrselassie, who had just won the elite race with a time of 00:28:02. For whatever reason that happened, although we were started by Bez, which is also good.

At the start I managed not to go shooting off too fast, although this does mean that hordes of people overtake you. I also managed to find time to wave to my mum and dad near the start, although this was hampered by the guy in front of me, who had come dressed in a tuxedo and was handing out roses at random to female members of the crowd. It's nice that he'd found a shtick and everything, but it's a bit tough on the person behind you to keep suddenly stopping at random.

I found the way out to Old Trafford easier in general that last year, and when we were by the football stadium at about the 4.5 km mark, I heard one of the other runners saying that we'd been running about 25 minutes, so I was making good time. I grabbed a bottle of water at about 6 km, which I hadn't needed to do last time. Although I've always wanted to do it, I resisted the temptation to empty the bottle over my head. I also avoided the run-through shower a kilometre or so further on.

The way back felt harder than last time, probably because I was running at a much higher pace. At about 7.5 km one of the other runners said we'd been out about 45 minutes, so I needed to do the last 2.5 km in about 15 minutes, which seemed like a lot. I was getting pretty tired by the last part, and wasn't sure how long I'd taken. It was going to be pretty dispiriting in the last 100 metres if the clock showed that I'd been out over an hour. As it turned out, it was in the 58th minute that I crossed the line, with the electronic chip-system giving my time as 00:58:40, which I was very pleased with: even if I'd taken minutes off my previous time.

If anyone feels like making a charitable contribution to support my effort in the run, why not donate to the People's Participation in Education (WATU) project?

Saturday, May 08, 2010

Obligatory Election Post

It's high time I contributed my deeply misinformed opinions to the post-election discussion, so here we go. At this point I'm making the assumption that the next government will be a Conservative-Lib Dem pact, but that could be superseded.

From a strategic point of view, I think this actually went surprisingly well for the Labour Party. Having been in power for 13 years, with a major recession on and a deeply unpopular Prime Minister, they were still comfortably the second party in the popular vote and are only about 60 seats off winning power back in the next General Election. Bearing in mind also that this election may be sooner rather than later, that it will not be fought with Brown as leader, and that the party will be the opposition to a government that has made severe spending cuts, things look alright in the medium term.

Conversely, this might be something of a pyrrhic victory for the Conservatives. Given everything that Labour had against them, Cameron failed to actually convince the country that he was better, and managed to squander a 27-point lead in the polls in the process. While he will now be Prime Minister, this is going to be at the cost of a pact with another party - ideologically deeply unpleasant to the Conservatives - and will almost certainly be at the cost of some sort of commitment to the kind of electoral reform the party definitely doesn't want. For Cameron himself, having failed to deliver a fully functional Conservative government is going to hurt him within the party, in which there is already a substantial wing which can't abide him. If/when things get tough for his government, this is a weapon which will be used against him.

Which brings us to the Liberal Democrats, perhaps the most disappointed of the parties, given the failure of Clegg's performances in the TV debates to transform into both the popular vote and seats. The one saving grace they have is that they are now crucial to any larger party which seeks to have a stable government, allowing them to push for the sort of Proportional Representation which will make them a proper player in British politics. The problem is trying to get this to work with Cameron and the Conservatives, who are deeply against it. It'll be interesting to see what Clegg can get: a referendum on PR seems likely, but will he be able to make it binding if it's favourable? Of course, he can pull the plug on Cameron's government if they stall on it, which is a nice card to have.

From a personal point of view, although a Labour-Lib Dem pact would have been preferable, Cameron as PM may be worth it if it also delivers PR. The most impressive result to me was the Green victory in Brighton Pavilion, a remarkable achievement for a small party in the current system, and hopefully a sign that there may be more Green seats in certain types of constituency. And Griffin was told to fuck off, which is probably the one result that unites all the supporters of other parties in joy.

Anyway, we're in for an interesting period, politically.