Mar. 11th, 2017

sawyl: (A self portrait)
Feeling distinctly coldy this morning, I nonetheless decided not to skip this morning's run. Despite feeling OK on arrival L told me about a cycling event he'd done where one of the competitors had died because they had 'flu, which crystallised my decision to take it gently.

I started with the others, shamelessly chattering away for the first half-klick before deciding that I couldn't face holding the same pace over the entire run and pushing up the pace to something like my usual non-parkrun cruising speed. Pottering round the course at something less than full-on meant that I had a chance to really enjoy the run, to take in the scenery, and to feel the camaraderie of running in a big group. By the half-way point, my natural tendency to push had asserted itself and I noticed I was gradually picking up speed. I managed to hold things back to a sensible pace for the next kilometre but by the time we reached the bridge, I finally gave in and opened the throttle all the way. I eventually finished in a respectable 20:39 and, when I checked my splits, I completed my final klick in 3:40 — a solid 30 seconds faster than my first K.

The others finished in decent time and L, who'd been hoping for a fast one, came within 14 seconds of a PB. E reported that results from Killerton were initially a bit problematic with everyone showing up as 59:59 but they must have switched to their backup timer because later in the day they'd corrected the times showing that she finishing in just under 30 minutes.

Afterwards we retired to D&P's place for tea and, in their case, bacon sarnies, and quality dog time. After loafing around for most of the morning and allowing myself to be used as a puppy climbing frame, we went for a walk along the canal. Along the way we met RW, who was out with wife and collie, and saw part of the Men's Walk — an eight mile sponsored walk down to the Turf Locks and back in support of Hospice Care. At this point, I decided to head home, turning left, running up from the river and taking the long but more gradual climb back up from the river.

This week's parkrun was also the first following the retirement of the points league. Despite being at the head of Riverside's table — I'd accumulated 2220 points since last August — I'm not to sorry to see it go. Of course I'm in a privileged position: I get the warm feeling of having my achievement recognised without the embarrassing — to me, at least! — prospect of actually winning anything.

But I agree with the parkrun organisers' decision completely. The league rewarded those of us who attend the same run regularly and who consistently finish high up the order. It didn't do much for people who move around a lot, who can't make it every week, or who are squeezed out of the top hundred, and penalised people who volunteered more than four times a year.

In fact the very things I value about parkrun are antithetical to the points league.

The most important things to me are the community spirit and the sense of inclusion. I particularly like the way it encourages
people who don't think of themselves as runners to join in. Rather ironically, I considered myself a member of the latter category until M talked me into doing my first parkrun back in October 2015. Although I've long been someone who runs, I'd always been a bit reluctant to classify myself as a runner. Rather like E, when she did her first run at Killerton earlier this year, I considered "proper" runners to members of running clubs, people who took it seriously, and who went in for races. But one of things I realise, thanks to parkrun, is that it's not races or clubs that matter, it's just a case of running and anyone, regardless of how fast or slow they are or who seriously they take it, gets to call themselves a runner.

So I'm not sorry to see the league go in favour of a shift towards participation. And I think that without it, I think I'm going to go to Killerton more. And I think I'm going to volunteer more; I'd definitely like to be a pacer, because you still get run but you also get to give something back, but when they're short of marshals it often seems like an optional extra — albeit an extremely popular one.
sawyl: (A self portrait)
This morning's survey of recordings of Schoenberg's Gurrelieder for Building a Library resulted in Nicholas Baragwanath selecting Simon Rattle's excellent live version from 2002. I'm not surprised: I bought it on the strength on Andrew Clements' enthusiastic review way back when it came out and I think it's stood the test of time well.

For anyone who doesn't know it, Gurrelieder is vast slab of late-Romanticism that is very much at odds with Schoenberg's later atonal works. The first part consists of a series of orchestral songs focusing on the love between King Waldemar and his mistress Tove — a romance that is, inevitably, doomed by the jealousy of Waldemar's queen. The section ends with a very beautiful, very Wagnerian song in which one of wood -doves of the Castle of Gurre tells the others of Tove's tragic death. In the second part, Waldemar curses God for the injustice of his beloved's death and is condemned to ride forever at the head of a skeletal hunting party. The final part features Waldemar and his wild hunt riding out, shocking the peasants as they pass, before the piece ends with a spectacular evocation of the sunrise.

While the video may not be the best quality and may not be quite in sync, here's a terrific performance of Gurrelieder from 2002, with Donald Runnicles conducting the BBC SO. The soloists are Jon Villars as Waldemar, Christine Brewer as Tove, Petra Lang as the wood-dove, and the much missed Philip Langridge as Klaus the Fool.


This brings back a lot of memories for me: I was lucky enough to be in the audience that night. I remember the Albert Hall was packed to the rafters and absolutely sweltering; it was around 30 celcius in London and well before the work to improve the air conditioning, making the place feel like a giant sauna! Luckily the performance more than made up for it and was good to see the hall full: I'd been to see a double bill of Olly Knussen's two Maurice Sendak operas, Higglety Pigglety Pop! and Where the Wild Things Are, two days before and the audience had been a little on the thin side...

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