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Love in the Time of Cholera

Or "Running in the Time of Covid" as Gabriel García Márquez might write today...

I must confess I've not actually read that particular work, although I really enjoyed "100 Years of Solitude", as recommended by my girlfriend at the time (a long time ago in a galaxy far away) who was studying for a Spanish degree. She was reading "Cien Años de Soledad" as a set book, but that was a bit too non-English for me.

Then, when she was due to graduate, the University careers advisor basically asked whether she wanted to be an accountant or a computer programmer, these being essentially the only jobs universities considered open to arts graduates at the beginning of the 80s.

And young people today think that it's hard to find a job.

To be fair, that's partly the fault of the arts graduates in government who didn't quite realise that: "University graduates are the top 10% of earners, so if we send half of all young people to university, then 50% of people will be in the top 10%!" was (to put it kindly) utterly stupid.

But maybe I'll hold off ranting (for the moment at least!) and get onto some running...

So we've had virtual runs and Garden Parkies and whatnot for so long, it's hard to believe a few actual races are back on the calendar. This weekend we know of the Farnham Pilgrim, which Amanda has run once but it isn't quite her thing, and the Ashtead 10k, which most definitely is!

It's not going to be business as usual in every respect, but hopefully it'll still be a fun day.

As with all of the relatively few permitted events, we have to be socially distanced and everything, and so we don't have quite the usual buzz at the start line.

Mask up to collect your number from the masked up number-wallahs.

You have to bring your own safety-pins this year, which is no problem for us, because Amanda always does anyway. Eco, y'see?! Or she just doesn't trust some race organisers...

But there's a guy just behind her in the queue who drops his in the long grass! There's really little to no chance of finding them, which he soon realises, so Amanda offers him her spare set. OMG! I touch them and then give them to him with bare hands! He's going to die! We're all going to die!!!


It remains the fact that we don't know anybody close who's had COVID-19, and we really need to stretch to acquaintances of acquaintances before we need two hands to count them. The atmosphere is very clearly, "Let's not be silly, but let's not worry too much about something that really isn't affecting us".

[The latest Scientific American magazine arrived in my post this morning, and the front cover article is about how people are having COVID nightmares and it's affecting their sleep patterns. Not round here!]

11am, the elite wave set off. For social distancing purposes, everyone who didn't achieve a certain minimum 10k time - or for whatever reason didn't want to join them - is then grouped by surname into separate waves of up to 25 people starting five minutes apart.

Top three starters will be top three finishers, although their final order will be slightly different. More detail would, I suppose, be getting ahead of myself, but I won't be getting ahead of any of them by the finish!

A standard wave sets off. As they're grouped by surname alphabetically, it's just totally random whether you are with fast or slow people.

Amanda, being an 'R', is a late wave, so rather than hang around at the start, I move up to a more interesting vantage point.

Don't know who she is, but her leggings would go well with some of my tops!

Near the top of the first hill, or at least, of the first elevated section. The ground is really rough and rock-hard, so it's much more difficult than the relatively mild gradient would imply. Not that "relatively mild" means that it's nearly flat, though. No! Don't make that mistake!

Goodness! We haven't had any pictures of Amanda running yet!

She's in a late wave - last but one or two - so there will be many ahead of her on the ground but behind her in the virtual race. It must be a bit tricky when you don't know whether somebody near you is a genuine rival, a really slow person from the previous wave or a really fast person from the next wave. But in the end everyone seems to manage, at least any time when I'm looking.

And well before the final wave reach the top of the first slope, the race winner is on his way back! That's <expletive deleted> fast, the speed he's running!

Steve, in second place, is a long way behind! Yeah, sure, posing for the photograph may take half a second off his time, but half a second isn't the margin we're talking about...

If your name begins with 'W' and you're not going to claim elite status, you're in the last wave, meaning if you're Jess Winder, your dad may well be crossing the line before you've even started!

Sister Georgina is not far behind, then all the slow people. Still, I've plenty of time to take their photos before I have to get on down to the halfwway point.

Obviously, the halfway point of a 10k is 5k from the start. But that's only if you don't take the short cut. Then it's maybe 0.5k if you want to stretch a point, so it's easy to get there before Amanda.

Hmm.... the ground isn't really that purple, I still need to do some work.

I suppose some readers may be wondering, "Why does Steve seem to have so much trouble with his pictures? My phone pics are fine, and he seems to be so much more professional, so what's his problem?"

Well, it's basically down to the fact that most of our perceptions are imaginary! Machines, such as cameras, see what is, while humans see what they know they should be seeing. This can somtimes be quite mind-blowing! I may have linked to this before, but I make no apologies if so:

[If you just skimmed past that, FOLLOW THE LINK: IT WILL BLOW YOUR MIND!]

So your phone or other camera tries to make its best guess at what a human would think they're seeing, based on what the machine is actually seeing, and by and large modern cameras make a reasonably good job of it. The problem for me is twofold: a) sometimes they just get it completely wrong; and b) most camera processing tends towards a 'punchy' rather than a realistic effect. It may be superficially impressive, but it'll seem strained and overprocessed with further consideration.

So I'm gonna DIY.... And I have a new camera... And given that the number of parameters to adjust is approximately seven gazillion, I'm still working on it!

Which is why the ground is a bit more purple than it should be. I will fix this in future, but this is now.

This would benefit from a bit of a zoom: basically, Georgina is being splashed with water by the marshal; hopefully to cool her down rather than just beause the she likes throwing water over people! To be fair, Jess got the same treatment shortly earlier. I don't think I know the particular marshal in question but I think she's a friend of theirs! [Update: she's their mum! Hi Mum!]

This isn't a closed route: families, dogs, you-name-it can get in the way.

And that's the first race since lockdown done!

Weird, but somehow it seems to have worked.

Prizegiving is going to be in the open, not the Scout Hall, but I can't see anybody having a problem with that in this beautiful weather.

Ah. She's too young to officially receive the prize of a bottle of wine.

I suppose there are two possibilities: a) her parents will happily enjoy the fruits of their daughter's hard work; or b) she and some of her friends will have a good time without burdening the older folks with unnecessary details.

I offer no comment as to which I'd have done at her age in her place, but I fear my regular readers won't find it too difficult to work it out.

Phew! Female number one is old enough!

And Steve and Rob are not too old for an elbow bump!

Steve did a good time, but this guy George has smashed the course record. In the heat, too. It's been in many ways a better day for spectators than runners, and I got pretty hot on my bike at times too.

And I believe I ended last year's Ashtead 10k with a dragonfly pic, so here's another one.

God! The buggers are hard to photograph!

Love to all,


[Yes, yes, I know, I should have got this out sooner. I'm hoping that if I treat you mean I'll keep you keen. Ok?]

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