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 This page is just random stuff from Ed.

Shoes - it's all getting a bit silly and a bit like the Emperor's new clothes.

I was reading a trade magazine recently and was a little surprised to see Inov-8 described as the natural running company. I have nothing against Inov-8, I have owned quite a few pairs of their shoes, but they ain't natural. We don't pop out of the womb with a mini pair of Rocklites on our feet.

I then saw an article about Merrell; I've never worn Merrel shoes, but people tell me they are good. Now this is the Emperor's new clothes, bit but sort of in reverse. Merrell said "it has seen strong growth in its barefoot collection". Now to me you either wear shoes or you go barefoot. How can you have a barefoot collection? Perhaps this is the modern day equivalent of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale. Unbelievably it gets worse,  Jonathan Pennington, Merrell's UK marketing manager, when talking about their children's range said "Children love to take off their shoes and run barefoot, so they are an obvious market to target when it comes to barefoot shoes". Now that guy is away with the fairies.

Keen to keep up with developments in running I read on and found that the land of the cuckoo clocks was into footwear. "GnL a Swiss footwear firm is targeting its new 3D cushioning system at the UK." Well why not we'll buy anything judging by what I've just written above. Apparently the 3D cushioning system "alleviates stress issues not covered by conventional footwear". Reading further I learnt that these were "shearing motion issues" I was developing some issues of my own so had a little lie down before reading on. "The GnL 360 features patented 3D cushioning technology that utilises multidirectional lugs embedded in the sole to provide support to the wearer in all directions." I am going to need plenty of support, because I am going to have some awful nightmares worrying about how they are going to fit all that lot into a barefoot shoe.

Fortunately the next few pages of the magazine were fairly bland and my pulse rate and blood pressure returned to near their normal level. Thank you for those articles on merchandising, buying groups and exploiting the Olympics. Titanium flexible and HRM compression bra technology did cause a bit of a blip.

An advert got me thinking about shoes again. "Fly Enigma  - A new class of running comfort and luxury" It's a new shoe from Mizuno that "will give you a running experience like you've never felt before. It's indulgent, it's sumptuous and available in store from July." (I was reading the August edition of the trade magazine.)  If Inov-8
are natural running shoes then what are un-natural running shoes? Mizuno perhaps?

NO check out this baby Tramp-it_jump_shoethe Tramp-it jump shoe.











I need a very long lie down in a dark room now.



The potent effect of words, the power of non-verbal communication and superpowers.

I ran the Devon Coastal Half-Marathon, rather than the full marathon on, 26th June 2011 because I had been unwell in the two weeks before the race. It was my first half marathon for a long, long time. Ultra marathons are my diet of choice although I do occasionally snack on marathons. (see www.getultrarunning.eu for information about the weird & wonderful world of ultrarunning). I enjoyed the experience and learnt some interesting lessons. 

I went fairly steadily for the first two thirds of the race, admiring the fantastic scenery and soaking up the good weather. I then decided to pick the pace up, but nothing happened; I was stuck in a slow plod. To get myself out of low gear I started to try to catch up the rather attractive looking girl I could see ahead. She slowed significantly on a hill and I could see her head drop and her shoulders droop. I caught her up then slowed to walk with her and have a chat. She was disheartened, she said "I thought I was fit, but I am finding this really hard". I discovered that this was her first half-marathon and that she has run a few 5 and 10k on roads and on fairly flat courses. She also took part in triathlons, but I forgave her that. 

"You are fit" I said "You are just not used to running on hills and this course is probably the hilliest you will encounter. Also you probably went too fast early on and are paying for it now." She said she had tried hard over the first few miles, but could not keep it up. "The people passing us now are experienced runners" I told her "they will have started slowly and are now finishing strongly" She seemed a little less disheartened. I suggested that we continue walking to the top of the hill then run down it. Walk up all the hills then run strongly on the down hills and the flat and that will get you to the end.

At the top of the hill she started running and left me behind. She was running with her head up and her shoulders back. That spoke volumes to me. As I reflected on the power that my words had had and the big message her body language was giving out I thought to myself 'I will have to find another attractive lady to catch up, to maintain my motivation and get to the end.'

Well that deals with the potent effect of words and the power of non-verbal communication, but what about superpowers I hear you say. (or I would hear you say if it were not for the fact that you are miles away reading this at some time in the future). Well I have always thought that super-heroes have a lonely time. They fly in, usually in disguise, perform their act of daring, then fly out to anonymity again. Well I'm not a super-hero, but I did feel that sense of loneliness on my run.


Running changes time.

 

When I say running changes time I do not mean that getting some good training runs in will reduce the time it takes to run a specific race. What I posit is more fundamental than that, although getting some good training runs in is pretty much a prerequisite for reducing race times. No what I am saying is that running affects the currency of the Grim Reaper; it changes time itself.

 

He’s mad I hear you say, or would do were it not for the fact that due to the wonders of modern technology you are probably reading this hundreds of miles outside my hearing range. I might be mad, that is a different debate, but I do have evidence that running changes time.

 

I was running along a familiar route, through a wood, which is apt in light of what I am going to say later. There was snow on the ground and it was hard to run in it. It seemed to take a lot longer to get through this section than usual even though it was probably only a couple of minutes. It certainly felt like about ten minutes or even more. Originally I put this down to the frustration of running slowly, but then I remembered another time when it seemed to take ages to get through this section. Then I was running fast, I was trying to keep up with a much faster friend. The amount of time it took seemed to be the same as the run in the snow, however, it could not been because I set a personal best for that route that day.

 

Distance covered is a function of time and pace. The distance covered was the same and the time it took seemed to be the same so the pace could not have been different, but it was. What was going on? I was about to concluded that it was my perception of time that was different when, in amongst some distant memories of ‘pay attention boy’, ‘you will never amount to much’ and ‘sit up straight when I am berating you’ (I went to a grammar school) drifted a picture of Wittgenstein wandering through an orchard touching a tree and saying ‘I know that this is a tree’ before passing on to the next one. Also mixed in there was something about dining-room tables disappearing when you close the door.

 

From this soup of strange ideas in my mind, which seemed to relate to philosophy principles taught in general studies at school, I concluded that things can only be said to exist if you perceive them.

 

Reality is what you perceive and perception is therefore reality. My perceptions of time were the same and were real, therefore it must have been time itself that changed.

 

Even if I have the logic slightly wrong runners still get a good deal from the Grim Reaper. There is strong scientific evidence that runners live longer, healthier lives than sedentary folk.

 

Heady stuff this running.

My electricity bill, philosophy and running.

Warning: This musing is a bit deep, but, like a marathon or possibly an ultra, it is worth the pain of hanging in there.

 

 The other day I was on the telephone listening to:

 “Your call is important to us; unfortunately all our operators are currently busy.  However, someone will deal with your call as soon as possible” which I think means ‘we cannot be bothered to employ sufficient staff to deal with all the calls and we hope most of you just give up trying to get through. We would much rather make profits for our shareholders than spend money dealing with snivelling complaints from customers'.

I was determined to wait them out as I had been overcharged on my electricity bill and wanted the money back. As I was waiting I was browsing the internet and came across the site www.askphilosophers.org and couldn’t resist a peek.

Are there any running questions I wondered? The answer was no, however, out of the 2275 questions there were 13 related to sport.

The most recent was posted on 20th December 2007 and was as follows:-

 

“The early philosophers were much involved with sport, in particular Aristotle who used the Olympic Games as metaphor for society. Why does sport feature little, if at all, in modern philosophy? From John L....”

 

There was one response on 27th December 2007 from Kalynne Pudner *, which I thought quite erudite, but it did not inspire me.

 

"That's a very good question, John, and one without a better answer, I suspect, than the limits of practicality. So many topics for philosophical reflection, so little time! As a matter of practicality, many philosophers feel the pressure of researching and publishing in the more traditional philosophical categories, in the interest of a respectable and marketable curriculum vitae.

But like other "philosophies of" areas of ordinary human life, like food and wine, philosophy of sport seems to be gathering a number of citations in recent years. The Philosopher's Index returns 189 hits for abstracts published since 2001 with "sport" in the title (a better indicator of topic than if "sport" appears anywhere in the text), and there is a semi-annual Journal of the Philosophy of Sport, which also began publication in 2001."

 

Then I realised that I knew the answer with a fierce clarity.  It was because Descartes was not a runner.

 

For those of you a little bit rusty on the history of philosophy I will try and explain in simple terms the relevance of Descartes not being a runner and the impact on the world had he been.

It was Descartes who said “I think therefore I am” and in effect changed the course of philosophy from the dynamic to the passive; from the contemplation of sporting endeavour to discover the meaning of life to finding the answer via navel gazing.

Now I am sure that Descartes with his brilliant mathematical mind meant ‘I contemplate how I form part of and affect my environment and about how that fits in with the greater Cosmos, therefore I am an integral and important part of the Cosmos. Lack of space in his “Discourse” first published in 1637 meant that this was shortened to “I think therefore I am” which loses a bit of meaning in the shortening. A couch-potato can watch a ‘soap’ and think ‘Oh dear I have eaten all my crisps, I’ll ask Mum to nip into the kitchen during the adverts and get me a doughnut or perhaps two.” Thinking and existing, but not quite how Descartes saw it.

Now had Descartes said “I run therefore I am” it would have been a whole different kettle of fish (The layman’s term for a philosophical debate). Running is active, runners are alive, runners know what it means to overcome adversity, inertia and pain and runners don’t just exist they live life in a gutsy way. The world of philosophy would have been outward looking, fun, exciting and mainstream.  Think of the rich vein that could have been mined using Kelly Holmes’s Olympic triumphs as metaphor.

Had Descartes been a fan of the great bard, Shakespeare, then he might have seen the relevance of running. In Shakespeare we find “Now bid me run, and I will strive with things impossible”. But no, Descartes is remembered for “I think therefore I am” turning philosophy into an internally focused pastime that is the preserve of academia.

I did eventually speak to someone at the electricity company and they amended my bill. Unfortunately I have now been undercharged, but I did not have the enthusiasm to telephone again. I went for a run instead.

 

*  Kalynne Pudner’s bio from her blog:- Just your typical Philosophy Ph.D. with nine kids. I teach at Auburn University and love it -- War Eagle! In the best of all possible worlds (whatever Leibniz might have to say on the matter), I would clean a room and come back to it an hour later without weeping in despair...eat chocolate without fearing the scale's retribution...speak French without having to stop and think, "Quel est ce mot?"...and write without ceasing.


Oh, that God the gift would give us
to see ourselves as others see us
- Robert Burns

 

I was reminded of this quote when running the Cornish Marathon. Normally it is used when someone has an over-inflated opinion of themselves and could do with a touch of reality. On this occasion it was the other way around.

 

I was several miles into the run and enjoying running down hill. Last year I remembered all the up hills, this year I was obviously in a glass half full mood because I thought at the end 'wow this marathon has some great down hills'. Anyhow, as I was saying, I was enjoying running down hill and caught a fellow runner up. I stayed alongside her for a chat and she said that she liked down hills (obviously I had found a kindred spirit) because they made her feel like a real runner. “What do you mean” I said “you are running therefore you are a real runner, what is more you are running a marathon therefore you are a pretty exceptional runner.” “I am slow” she replied “and not like those fast people up at the front. When I run down hill I run a little faster and feel like a real runner. They are runners I am a plodder”. I assured her that in my view she was a runner and we carried on for a while chatting about this and that, the weather, the view and how good it was to be out in the fresh air. Eventually the conversation turned back to running and to races which is when I discovered that this ‘I am not a real runner’ was that day running her 89th marathon.

Vocabulary and Physics

I had expected running to improve my physical health and perhaps give me an overall sense of wellbeing but I never expected it to improve my vocabulary and grasp of physics.

 

Reading an article on trail running I came across the word "biophilia", which I had never heard of before, nor had my spell checker because it suggested basophilic or biophysical. I hadn’t got the foggiest idea what basophilic meant, except that it was possibly rude. But with the aid of the internet I discovered that it describes cells or cell components that are readily stained by basic dyes.  Biophysical is the adjective where the noun, biophysics, means the science that applies the laws and methods of physics to the study of biological processes.

 

Anyhow back to the trail running article, this is rather good, if somewhat idealistic. I quote “Bounding along a woodsy trail induces calmness while improving leg strength, coordination and body awareness.”  I have found that bounding along a woodsy trail leads to a fall that induces a pain in the knee and other body parts of which you become painfully aware.


The article was on the San Diego website, but seems to have disappeared now, but it seems there is some great running to be had in that area.


 

The article starts by saying “Some researchers believe that each of us has an instinctive need called biophilia -- a longing to be one with nature. Biophilia is why sitting on a park bench for 15 minutes can produce such contentment and stress release.”  In my experience sitting on a park bench for fifteen minutes leads to something a lot less than contentment, you are either propositioned, talked to by someone strange or aggressively investigated by a dog. But at least you now know what biophilia is, it is the love of life or living systems (Wikipedia).

 

Now to the physics, or perhaps it should be metaphysics. A few years ago a friend told me about Long Distance Walkers Association (LDWA) events. On many of the events runners are welcome and they have great drinks stations where food is available, such as peaches, tea-cakes, jam sandwiches, jaffa cakes, homemade cakes and lots, lots more so naturally I joined. Their magazine the Strider is a remarkable publication containing a wealth of information. The article that really caught my eye in the recent edition was on route measurement and why GPS measurement can be inaccurate. I have noticed at races that some techie nerds complain to each other that the course distance was incorrect, usually by a few nanometres, according to their GPS device. The fact that everyone’s device gives a different figure doesn’t seem to bother them. Well the article in the Strider explains why GPS devices can be inaccurate and goes on to say that the faster you are the more inaccurate it can be. Apparently it is something to do with Buzz Lightyear, well that is my simplistic view. If you want the scientific explanation email me. It is all to do with fractals. If you want a fun time look them up on Wikipedia. Here is a taster.

 

A fractal often has the following features:

 

So a simple desire to run in the woods and eat cake (some people call me Edward Bear, others call me Running Bear) lured me into the murky world of philias and fractals.

Running is a strange old pastime.


 
 
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