All the things you can do by the beach
I divide Paulo Coelho’s (yes, him again) books into two categories. The weird ones and the not weird ones. The weird ones might possibly be autobiographical but then again maybe they aren’t but it’s not clear and I don’t know if it matters and sometimes I try to figure it out and sometimes I just read the book and don’t worry about. I’m in two minds as to which category The Witch of Portobello should come into but on balance would put it in the not-weird pile. I should also say that I read them all, it’s just that I spend some of them trying to work out how much, if any, of the story is what happened to him and how much is pure fiction. It probably doesn’t matter.
We had a lovely experience recently in Portobello. Once a year, the promenade by the beach (which, for me, is mainly important as being part of the Edinburgh marathon route) is given over to buskers and street performers. They include young children singing, bands, bagpipes (which drown out pretty much everything within a few hundred metres) and jugglers (one of whom was juggling with a sword slid down his throat!). It’s a wonderful idea and lovely to see a community and its guests enjoying the different talents of so many people while raising money (in many cases for charity, but also for sweets in some cases) at the same time. I particularly liked one band who were clearly having a lot of fun playing together, notwithstanding the piper upwind from them.
And then this weekend it was back to the beach – or beside the beach – for the first Scottish Half Marathon. Basically you get to choose between running a half marathon near Edinburgh on the Saturday with somewhere around 3,000 others, or on the Sunday in Newcastle with 50,000 – and Mo Farrah. I went for the smaller event. This was my first half marathon race (“race” is of course a loose term in that I was not in this to win it) and, despite in my heart of hearts knowing that I hadn’t quite trained enough – well, it was the summer holidays and it was too hot in Berlin to run more than once and by that time it was also getting dark which wasn’t such a great idea with hindsight – I thought I would go for it anyway and see if I could crack 1:30 (that’s one hour thirty by the way, not one minute thirty). I drank copious amounts of water and beetroot juice the days before and relied on the speed workouts I had done over the last couple of months, as well as the fact that on the day you can run faster for longer than you can in training. And then there was the issue with the turn. Honestly, I don’t get what happened or what didn’t happen but at the mile 7 marker my watch said we had done near enough 7 miles. At the mile 8 marker, my watch said we had done 8 1/4 miles, and then showed that consistent 1/4 mile difference right to the end. That’s pretty much two minutes difference in real money. I’ve asked the organisers the question. But you know what, maybe they did get something wrong, maybe they didn’t. It was a lovely day, a nice course, the spectators were encouraging and there was enough water along the course. What more do you want? Well, a t-shirt of course. It turns out I race to get t-shirts:
Everyone’s a winner. And despite the possible issue with the distance, I made it in under 1:30 – ten seconds under counts, OK?! And I ran in my favourite sandals (I always run in them, it’s way more fun).