Monday, July 21, 2014

What if your head was truly on fire ?

Race walking with your head on fire is a strange sensation.

This, even after I walk in bright sunshine through a water shower made possible by a local fire tender.

More than 3,000 people, myself included, pass through this quiet rural road on our way around a ten kilometre course.

Most run, I walk determinedly, as do a few others gathered in competitive cluster as focussed on besting one another as any Olympian contest, though they move slower, with more venom.

Later, I discover some jog on stretches where nobody is watching them.

Turning a quiet corner, I meet a parked fire tender belonging to the local Civil Defence Unit. Water hoses spray hanging moisture into the atmosphere from either side of the road.

They offer a choice: walk dry or take a soaking.

I stop beneath the silver spray and thank the god of walkers for sending these fine angels to us on this day in the 20 degree heat of near noon.

Not a very high temperature, but add body heat from competitive walking and the numbers climb.

Soaked through, I walk on with a new squelch in my step.

I do not take on water at the next water station. I am hydrated enough.

A short while later, in direct sunlight, my head heats up from the inside past ignition point to where I wonder what the protocol might be for a fiery head bearing down on the finish line.

I walk on, determined to finish or fall in the attempt.

My head cools down somewhat as I hit a shady area and I pick up my pace, once more.

I pass the finish line and wonder if steam is coming from my ears from the soaking.

Or if smoke is truly escaping from inside my skull.
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Monday, July 14, 2014

A lot to be said for a good shout

Not enough people shout out loud any more.

There was a man once who did not like silence and so he used to shout every so often just to make the blood flow a little faster in the veins of all who heard him suddenly give voice.

He called it "having a bit of gas", gas being fun, not exhaust fumes from a metal pipe, or, the inside of a domestic cooker, however temporarily visited.

He specialised in attending public meetings, on any subject at all, just so long as there would be a moment of quiet in which he could interject some noise.

And some jaded listeners.

ual general meetings were always a good occasion, especially when the election of a committee for the following year came about.

Silence always fell then, it still does, when everyone's eyes settle on anything except the top table where a welcome awaits those with nothing else to do but serve on the committee.

It was then he came into his own for he would suddenly shout aloud to the exasperation of the committee formers and the consternation of those new to the experience.

He would shout nothing discernible at all, at times; other times, he would invent a title of a book or film.

If the chairman was wearing a nice green shirt and was called Wally de Winter for example he would call out:

"The Case of the Green Shirt, by Wally de Winter," he'd shout. "Has anyone seen that yet?"

He used to encourage all about him to join him in "Letting a shout, for a bit of gas,"

At which point someone officious would move to eject him.

He would demand that his freedom of expression be respected and glorious mayhem would ensue.


Nobody shouts enough, any more.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Never going home

Three flights on one journey will create misunderstandings.

I travel from Umea, in Northern Sweden, to Dublin.

My first flight is delayed landing at Stockholm. There is a long internal walk from arrival. My 100 minutes between flights begin to wither.

Eating french fries at a café I discover I have two minutes to check in, a kilometre away, through crowds.

Chips loosed in my pocket, I eat fistfuls. I gallop.
Through security. No time to re-trouser my belt.
I run with the wide leather belt swinging in one hand.
People step aside. I eat fries on the hoof.

The nearest gate is 21. Final check in time is past.

I am hailed on the public address. "Would Brendan Nolan please contact gate 33"

I want to shout I am trying to do that; but I am finishing my fast food.

Gate 33. All boarded.

An older stewardess calls my name at me?

Yes, it is I. Fame.

I sit, strap, breathe, fly. Nobody cheers, alas.

In Copenhagen, I transfer to my third plane for a two-hour flight. Onboard, I doze. I walk to the toilet. 

I wash my wrists in the tiny restroom. I splash my eyes and face with water.
I press a button on the towel dispenser.
Fists bang on the door.

Stewardess; "Are you alright? You pressed the alarm."

I invite her in to explain.

I hold her wrist to steady this slim Scandinavian who flies through the air every day, unaided by me.

She smiles into my eyes and says I was just seeking her company in that room.

I feel dizzy: perhaps I ate the chips too quickly.

We walk the aisle teasing one another, my face still damp.

Strapped men look at me with murder in their eyes.

I may never go home.

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Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Not falling down but walking

The sympathetic word can wound more deeply that any caustic taunt from an onlooker.

People in high visibility jackets clap politely as I walk the roads of Phoenix Park on my own.

They are stewards for an eight kilometre race organised as the first of four warm-ups for the Dublin city marathon, now only some 17 weeks away, down the road.

They say: well done, almost there, when I am still ages away from the end.

The running pack is gone ahead; the stragglers lost in the distance behind me.

Such words are meant kindly, for they believe me to be a runner who has run out of steam and needing encouragement.

Instead, I am a walker nearly losing consciousness from the thrill of passing out overweight joggers who it seems will reach their mortal end before they meet a finish line on this earth.

A man on a bicycle coming down a steep hill says gruffly to me that I should get to grips with matters athletic: I don't know his exact words for he is freewheeling down the hill while I am power walking up it.

I will finish in the low 3,000s out of 5,000 starters, mostly runners; but that does not seem to matter to the well-sayers.

The man on the public address at the end seems to be particularly concerned at my pace: that of a capable walker finishing strongly where he believes, wrongly, that I am a runner who has lost faith.

He addresses me by my name, having found it on the entrant's list.

The god of rain joins in to drench me with driving vertical rain.

I do not care; for I am home now.

I even run a little for the finishers' cameraman.

God forgive me.
Personal best, I'd say.
Storytelling here