Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Footnotes: Running Experiences

'Footnotes: Running Experiences'  at the Amersham Arms in New Cross earlier this month (2nd  September) was an interesting event, a running-themed spoken word Open Mic night featuring 'tales of poetry in motion'.

First up was New Cross-based artist and runner Veronique Chance with tales of  her 2012 Great Orbital Ultra-Run, undertaken 'over nine consecutive days around the inside of the M25. Conceived as 'point-to-point' from and to 10 different motel stops along the route, this journey did not follow preconceived 'paths' but was about negotiating a route round come what may.  Relayed live from her mobile phone through a stream of images along with her GPS coordinates, this was projected as a moving image work with sound at the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, University of Greenwich for the exhibition 'Evil Sport and Ultra Run''. Veronique showed images from this run/performance while reading extracts from her daily run notes. Of course Iain Sinclair wrote a whole book about walking the London Orbital, but I think his progress in the company of literary and artistic visionaries was slightly more leisurely than Chance's solo navigation of traffic, fences and other hazards, as described for instance in this extract:

'I spend much of the rest of the journey negotiating private farm land and scrubland and climbing over a lot of small barbed wire fences to keep alongside the motorway... In the the middle of all of this I nearly got attacked by a rotweiler that was loose inside an open gateway. As soon as I tried to pass it began barking aggressively and bounded over towards me. I froze thinking that was it- that I was going to be mauled, but luckily he went back, but I was completely stuck, he was not going to let me pass. My only way out was to climb over a wire fence behind me. I was petrified and almost in tears, but relieved I managed to get out of the situation'.

The Great Orbital Ultra Run (archive clip) 2012 from Veronique Chance on Vimeo.

The event was arranged by SE London-based writer Vybarr Cregan-Reid - a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Kent - and he read an extract from his forthcoming book, 'Footnotes: running, landscape & the way we live now'. The book aims to be a  'psychogeography of running that darts between poetry, philosophy, neuroscience, history, paleoanthropology, and biomechanics. It is a running book for those that love the new nature writing' (see his Pyschojography blog). The extract he read recalled his impressions of going for a run round Walden pond in Concord, Massachusetts and the irony of coming across a 'no running' sign in this area now preserved as a tourist shrine to the writer Henry David Thoreau who lived there and famously celebrated the natural world as an escape from such restrictions.

After a few short open mic contributions - including a piece from me on breathing and running which I will write up at some point, exercise scientist Mike Rogerson discussed some of the latest research from the University of Essex's Green Exercise Research Group. Essentially this argues that Green Exercise - undertaking 'physical activity while simultaneously being exposed to nature' - brings greater benefits to psychological well-being than doing exercise in 'non-natural' environments. Interesting stuff which sparked a lively discussion about the relationship between environmental and social factors. The argument is less that 'countryside' (actually mostly human-created landscape) is better than 'city', but that within urban areas we might get more benefit from running in parks and other green spaces than from running down a treeless street. Not surprisingly, parkrun is one research focus and Rogerson has been involved in a study to compare effects of four different parkrun courses.

More running related literature:

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the write-up and I look forward to reading the piece you previewed on 'breath'.