Thursday, 22 June 2017

Art of Athletics (9): 'Catch Me' by Royalle Niambura

The Turner Contemporary gallery in Margate currently features work from the MASK PRIZE, an annual arts competition for young people under the age of 25 living in Africa and people of African origin living outside the continent, set up by the charity MASK (Mobile Art School in Kenya).

It includes this striking running image, 'Catch Me',  by Royalle Niambura from the Riara Springs Academy in Nairobi, Kenya. This was the winner of the Visual Arts Under 13 prize.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Running on Screen (19): The Handmaid's Tale

Episode 3 of The Handmaid's Tale (the excellent new TV adaption of Margaret Atwood's dystopian novel), features a scene with June, played by Elisabeth Moss, out for a run with her friend Moira, played by Samira Wiley. The soundtrack is Peaches' F*ck the Pain Away, expressing the kind of assertive women's subjectivity that is soon to be suppressed. The carefree freedom to run is remembered in flashback from a world where women's public presence is rigidly policed under a religious fundamentalist regime, and where fertile women live as slaves to breed children for their masters.

The point of this episode is to show the transition to the new repressive regime. The uncovered flesh of the runners receives a disapproving stare from a passer-by, and when the runners stop for a coffee afterwards they find that women's bank accounts have been frozen and women banned from the workplace as a menacing militia takes to the streets.

June - rechristened as Offred as she is now 'Of Fred', her commamder -  reflects: 'Now I'm awake to the world. I was asleep before. That's how we let it happen. When they slaughtered Congress, we didn't wake up. When they blamed terrorists and suspended the Consitution, we didn't wake up then, either. Nothing changes instantaneously. In a gradually heating bathtub, you'd be boiled to death before you knew it'.

The quote from Atwood's 1985 novel goes:

'Is that how we lived then? But we lived as usual. Everyone does, most of the time. Whatever is going on is as usual. Even this is as usual, now. We lived, as usual, by ignoring. Ignoring isn't the same as ignorance, you have to work at it.

Nothing changes instantaneously: in a gradually heating bathtub, you'd be boiled to death before you knew it. There were stories in the newspapers, of course, corpses in ditches or the woods, bludgeoned to death or mutilated, interfered with, as they used to say, but they were about other women, and the men who did such things were other men. None of them were the men we knew. The newspaper stories were like dreams to us, bad dreams dreamt by others. How awful, we would say, and they were, but they were awful without being believable. There were too melodramatic, they had a dimension that was not the dimension of our lives. We were the people who were not in the papers. We lived in the blank white spaces at the edges of print. It gave us more freedom.'

In the new world women must be covered up, and Offred recalls as she walks 'I'm remembering my feet on the sidewalks, in the time before, and what I used to wear on them. Sometimes it was shoes for running, with cushioned soles and breathing holes, and stars of fluorescent fabric that reflected light in the darkness'.

Previously in the Running on Screen series:

Sunday, 4 June 2017

New Burgess parkrun route

Southwark's Burgess Park hosts one of my favourite parkruns, scene of my PB and recognised as being one of the flatter and faster courses in the London area. I've written about it here before, but recently there has been a change to the course. I went along and ran it yesterday, chasing my second sub-20 5k in three days after a good outing in the Assembly League race in Battersea Park on the preceding Thursday. I didn't make it, but can confirm this is still a good course if you are looking for a fast 5k time.
As before the course starts at the far west of the park near the Camberwell Road entrance, and heads off for a long straight before taking a turn and looping around the Burgess Park lake. The main change is that the old course used to go twice round the lake- nice and picturesque (what with its herons and all), but sometimes resulting in congestion as there would be a lot of lapping around the lake.  The new course only goes round the lake once before heading up to the far east of the park by the Trafalgar Avenue entrance.
runners on the home stretch with the Aylesbury Estate in the background
There is a slowing hairpin turn there,  but once negotiated it's a long straight run (I think about 1.2k) from one end of the park to the other. Mentally it's quite tough, as it does seem quite a stretch, but there is nothing to slow momentum other than going down then up through the underpass that takes the path under the road at Wells Way.
At the very end there is a sharp left turn towards the finish funnel on the grass, other than that it's tarmac all the way. The finishing line is actually within the funnel by the flag, so as the sign says make sure you 'run all the all way to the flag'. Friendly crowd and team as always, they have fresh fruit at the end for a donation.
 Kent AC's Gareth Anderson was first man home yesterday in 16:48,  Amy Cook first woman in 21:04, with a total of 286 finishers.