I ran in the St Peters Parkrun last Saturday. I’m accustomed to finishing in the top half of the participants, only because many walk part of the way. At Sydney Park, my heart sank when I saw how young and fit the 280 runners were. They’re a different demographic, the citizens of Newtown, near a major university. I ran steadily, that adjective denoting slowly, a tad faster than 7:00 mins/km, and I only beat 20 home. But I grinned.
That Parkrun was the tenth in 2020. I’ve missed three of them, once due to travel, once due to Extinction Rebellion, once due to smoke haze cancellation. This morning, Parkrun Australia took the sane action of suspending events as part of the Covid-19 lockdown. At least the next three events are kaput, but I’d guess more, so my Big Year resolve of running 52 events could soon be 50% under target.
I’m not feeling faster but general fitness is picking up and at last I’m getting the weight down, so I’ll honor this Big Year over the next couple of months by attempting 5 km runs on Saturdays with some speed in mind. I’ll court injury or puffed-out disappointment, but on the upside, hey, I might find myself shouting, “I’m improving!”
Nine days ago I experienced Parkrun in the soupy heat of the Wet season in Darwin. Nightcliff is a superb Parkrun by the bay but I was deep inside myself, so immersed in keeping going that I ran past my daughter and granddaughter without noticing them. I walked/ran from 4 kms, a deeply disappointing outcome (a pace of 6:56/km, nearly as slow as walking), but felt great afterwards. So a couple of days ago, back at Gardiners Creek in eastern Melbourne, for the first time this year I made myself run slowly, to plod behind runners who looked like they’d just soldier on. I ended up passing a few of them and crossed the line very content in myself. My pace of 6:52 was the slowest non-stop effort I’ve ever made but I didn’t care. Since then, I’ve felt comfortable taking a couple of days off from running, gym, or cycling, and I know I’m gradually putting on weight, but the pressure of expectations at the beginning of the year was too intense. Tomorrow I’ll renew my routines and aspire to more.
My court case approaches. I find myself taking time to breathe and reflect. Here’s Sasha Sagan from “For Small Creatures Such As We: Rituals and Reflections for Finding Wonder“: ” Between those two enormous mysteries, if we’re lucky, we get eighty or one hundred years. The blink of an eye, really, in the grand scheme of things. And yet here we are. Right now. It’s easy to forget how amazing this is. Days and weeks go by and the regularity of existing eclipses the miraculousness of it. But there are certain moments when we manage to be viscerally aware of being alive. Sometimes those are very scary moments, like narrowly avoiding a car accident. Sometimes they are beautiful, like holding your newborn in your arms. And then there are the quiet moments in between, when all the joy and sorrow seem profound only to you.”
From where I stand, Extinction Rebellion is waging a war using NVDA. I’m helping organize.
The limpy knee from the previous Parkrun fixed itself (which might indicate I’m getting fitter) and my physio has me strengthening muscles around the knees and by last Thursday I was up and running again. Rain was forecast last Saturday but stayed away and when the mass of aspirants surged off the starting line, I felt, for the first time this year, optimistic and joyous. I didn’t push the pace, so my pace was not marvellous, but I felt light and capable and happy to be there amongst a few hundred strivers. I walked towards my tram with bounce in my steps.
You do something scary and dramatic, imagining you’re changing the world, and then nothing happens. What’s next? Do you lick your wounds and retreat: “what’s the point, eh?” Do you posture: “look at me, look at me”? Do you drink red wine?
A month and a half into the Rebellion Big Year, I’m feeling a salutary backlash. I’m working hard to help grow Extinction Rebellion locally, but whatever growth we’re exhibiting isn’t dramatic. None of my social circle has followed my lead, if that’s the apt expression. The Spring Rebellion last October (see the picture above) made a difference, with climate change featuring higher in the media than ever before or since, but we’ve dipped out of the news again, just another protest group.
Nothing magical has sprung forth. Did I imagine it would?
All I can do is exhibit the obdurate patience of my climate change heroes. We do what we do because we must. Change will come. Tomorrow is another day.
Nearly two months of this Big Year and there hasn’t been any conspicuous rebelliousness. I haven’t been arrested again, partly because Extinction Rebellion itself has been biding its time since the Spring Rebellion and gathering for the Autumn Rebellion. My first protest march will be in a couple of weeks and that will be spirited but mild.
I have been busy, nonetheless. Activism isn’t only about the visible actions, it’s about building an institution and growing the supporter base. I’ve gotten involved with my local XR branch and am helping with the boring admin of the group. I’m getting to know how a “self organized system” like XR works – it’s fabulous, excellent in theory and exciting in execution! Next week I help give a local XR introductory talk.
I’m also spending time dealing with the emotional side of activism, especially the ongoing cycles of grief and rage arising from an appreciation of up-to-date climatology contrasted with the nastiness of political inaction. So I read and reflect a lot, including books, articles, and the Twitterverse. All of this is immensely interesting but time-consuming and debilitating.
So … not much to report, really, or at least nothing dramatic. My basic goal has been to spend at least an hour each and every day, and averaging two hours daily over the year, and both those targets are being met.
I expect the remainder of this year to be more exciting, not that “excitement” is necessarily worth looking forward to!
I’d begun to feel stronger and fitter but my left knee still “caught” every now and then, chiefly while walking, and a strange intermittent “weakness” in that knee was even more troubling. So I went to the physio three days ago and he assured me my knee was probably structurally fine but that I wasn’t utilising the left inner quadricep muscle properly (the right leg’s actions are fine). I came away with mild strengthening exercises to train the left leg to be a good boy.
All well and fine until Parkrun this morning. I caught the tram to Gardiners Creek and got there just in time. A huge crowd of nearly 400 took off at the signal. Worried that I’d burn out like I did the previous Saturday, I kept a slow, steady pace, and settled in behind a mother and her teenage boy. I finished with a slow pace of 7 mins/km, 138th in the field and 6th in my age group (which is small, just 8 mad old men). I’d been nervous and finished on an adrenaline high. The future beckoned … until I began walking the kilometre back to the tram stop and discovered the left knee was sore as heck.
I’m now a limping wreck and am icing the offending bone every couple of hours. It may well recover but if it doesn’t, what’s to become of this Big Year? If running is the cause, will I be able to cycle enough to compensate for the lack of two hours of strenuous exercise a week? Parkrun seemed such a hopeful new start. What now?
I have little hesitation in adding my voice to Extinction Rebellion’s first two demands. “Tell the Truth” is so obvious, especially in the say-something-but-never-do-anything political swamp of Australia. I won’t talk about it here. Similarly, “Act Now,” the second demand, is crystal clear: to cut emissions, we must … cut emissions.
Our third demand “Beyond Politics” is more cryptic, if also immediately sensible. To be precise (from XR’s main website, which you should check out!): “Beyond Politics: Government must create and be led by the decisions of a Citizens’ Assembly on climate and ecological justice.” I’m a strong believer in “capitalism with a human face,” entailing a more interventionist, altruistic, strong hand than we currently have, and XR’s demand to short circuit our current lobbyist-influenced shitty brand of politics rings true to me. But what is a Citizens’ Assembly?
Well, a modern real-life example is being enacted right now. In the United Kingdom, an enabling and optimistic institutionalised process called Climate Assembly UK (check it our here) has commenced at speed. The government agreed to it as a result of XR pressure, and 30,000 random households were approached, with 110 citizens finally selected as representative. Over four weekends, these ordinary folks will examine data presented by experts, as a first step. The first such briefing took place last weekend.
What will happen? Is this well designed, well structured? Will it hold political heft? I’m going to find out… Whatever happens, we want something like this, but very much with unstoppable teeth, here in Australia, to short circuit the current poisonous political stage.
Four full weeks into the new decade, this Parkrun Big Year is a hard slogging letdown. On Saturday, I lined up with 245 other runners/walkers at Gardiners Creek. I haven’t made any friends there yet, so I was nervous. When the mass surged off, I ran my first two kilometers at faster paces than the week before, and was feeling confident, then experienced a sudden drop of resolve and energy. I stopped and walked/ran the rest for a time of 37:29, by far my worst effort ever. I was gutted and spent the rest of the morning and the entire afternoon working hard at my desk in order to restore a sense of self worth.
Yesterday, jogging up steep Scotch Hill, I stopped again. What is going on? Tomorrow’s run had better be encouraging or I reckon I need a new coach.
Although I was upset, physically so, at these poor performances, I like to think I’m retaining a sense of perspective. On the plus side, last week was the first 2020 week in which I completed all ten programmed exercise sessions (smoke haze and forgetfulness marred the other three weeks). Perhaps I’m about to come good…