Sunday, September 26, 2010

Running: Scotiabank Result

Half Marathon: Gun time 1:56:05.9 for a 5.31 pace per km; Chip time 1:51:15.5 for a 5.25 (5:15) pace. A bit slower than the Goodlife Half last fall, so not a PB.

In the top half for males, and for males in my age group. Not a negative split: less than 5.3 pace for the first 10K,then a bit over 5.3 for the last stretch, 10K to 21K. When I finally got up to speed in the first half, I must have been really moving for a while.

There was a huge crowd--22,000 were announced, and I was well back in the blue corral, so it took some time (apparently almost 5 minutes--it seemed longer) to cross the start line. For those who don't know, the Gun time is from the starting gun to when you finish; the chip time is the time you actually take from the start line, as recorded by a timing chip. For the first half or so I found myself passing people, stepping outside the lines to find room, even climbing on a wall. Not very efficient.

A beautiful day, with just a slight cool breeze and sun. Apparently a lot of marathoners qualified for Boston, and many runners probably had a PB.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

The Quaker Lady

Yesterday as part of "Doors Open," I looked around the Quaker Meeting House here in Newmarket--in continuous use since about 1805. A nice, soothing wooden building, classic Quaker carpentry, simple and unadorned with big planks.

The lady showing us around was interesting. I mentioned that I had toured the Sharon Temple, a few miles from here, founded by a group that had split off from the Newmarket Quakers. She said that group had probably followed a charismatic leader (David Willson) rather than following "the inner light," and that was why they had not lasted long after the leader's death. Probably true.

I had been struck by one detail: the Willson group had wanted music in a church service--something that the Quakers do not have. This lady said there is nothing stopping someone who is responding to the inner light from singing, any more than from speaking out, but it is considered wrong to plan something, bring instruments or music, etc. The Willson group, perhaps still imbued with Quaker thinking, tried to reach the point where no piece of music was played more than once--hence retaining the spontaneity and freshness, in the hope that music doesn't become routine, stale, forgettable, something one can day-dream through. I think Willson himself composed a lot of the music they used--a formidable job, producing new music every week, in some ways comparable to J.S. Bach.

The tour lady said she had once been an evangelical Christian, and she was a singer in those days, so she has certainly experienced services with a lot of music. But she said: the point of those services is to win converts, or cause someone to turn to Jesus. That is different from encouraging people to respond to their own inner light. I asked how often anyone sings at Quaker meeting, and she said not often. She said some people definitely miss it, and ask if music can at least be planned on occasion. Her answer: meeting is only one hour out of the week; you have the entire rest of the week for devotional music, if you wish to experience that.

Then without any prompting from me, she said: we don't believe in having one minister leading a service. Some people say we have eliminated the clergy, but we believe everyone is a minister. Perhaps it is lay people we have eliminated.

Incidentally, they seem to have resigned themselves to being called Quakers--although they probably don't like it.

Update on Running Times

A very fast 5K for me today in the Terry Fox run: 22:09, under 4.5 mins per km (here showing a decimal, otherwise showing seconds). They have km markers up, and I was running my stop watch. I think I did 5:10, 4:13, 4:54, 4:26, and 3:26, or something close to those numbers. Definitely a negative split (second half faster than the first). My fifth time running it, and the first time was probably about 28 minutes. Last year 24 minutes.

I've never raised money for the Terry Fox, but I gave them $40.

So: an update on my PBs:

5K: 22:09 (Terry Fox 10)
10K: 55:19 (Oasis Zoo 08)
10m: 1:22:20 (Acura Toronto 09)
Half: 1:49:37 (Goodlife Toronto 09)
Marathon: 4:00:05 (Waterloo 10)

Of course there are people who think the emphasis on PBs is silly--some cities have a group called Harriers or something who will ostracize you for using the expressions BQ (Boston Qualifier) or PB (Personal Best). Nevertheless, there is now a stronger case for me to do a 10K this fall, and improve on 55 minutes. I should be able to do 50 minutes or even 45.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Privacy and the Internet

A topic this is on many people's minds.

In the Spectator, Rory Sutherland reminds us how easy it is to say something foolish on line that will have a huge impact on our lives, and also how easy it may be for others to violate our privacy.

Sutherland refers to the "Twitter Suicide" of Stuart MacLennan, who was briefly a Labour candidate in Britain, but he doesn't include a link; here it is.

And then there's the slightly creepy article by Jose Antonio Vargas in the New Yorker, based on interviews with Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook. Of course all such pieces carry the tone of a boomer fussing and saying "oh those young people and their internet," but Zuckerberg does seem an odd duck. His views on privacy are troubling given the company he runs.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Intervals Again

Probably only of interest to runners ...

Last spring I trained for a marathon, so I did several workouts of intervals, once a week beginning with 2 x 1600 m (2 sets of 4 laps, 400 m per lap, with a good break between sets), and building up to 5 x 1600. I didn' keep detailed notes on all the runs, but it seems that when I did 2 sets, the second set was 1:45, 2:00, 1:55 and 1:50; average 1:52. The following week, 3 sets, averaging 1:45, 1:47, 1:48.

Yesterday I did 3 sets, averaging 1:48, 1:46 and 1:50. The first two sets were faster than either of the 2 sets last week. So I'm doing OK, if a bit slower than in the spring. I'm pleased that the second set was faster than the first.

On intervals in the spring, see here and here.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Applebaum on Iraq

Great piece by Anne Applebaum in Slate.

Even if Iraq has turned out better than some expected, and even if it becomes a beacon of democracy in the Arab world, a very high price has been paid. Above all (she says), there has been little thought to the strategic harm that has been done to U.S. interests partly by the intense focus on this one country. It is hard to name an unstable country or hot spot that is not more of a threat to the U.S. today than when Bush invaded Iraq. At the top of the list, one might put Iran.

Religions and the Sanctity of Life

Neil Reynolds in the Globe reviews a book by David Brog which apparently argues that "the sanctity of human life" is more consistently believed in and defended in the world of "Judeo-Christian" beliefs than in other world views or religions; and of course such a belief is always extremely fragile even in that world--more or less Western civilization.

I'm pretty sure there is no such thing as a Judeo-Christian (maybe St. Paul, but surely not Jesus of Nazareth). On the other hand, there may be a meaningful proposition here: the Biblical religions, including Islam, clarify and/or elevate the sanctity of human life more than other religions. In other religions individuals can easily be sacrificed for a greater good--indeed it would be a sin not to make such a sacrifice. In the Biblical religions, there is at least an effort to specify the extreme circumstances in which such a sacrifice is justified. Liberal intellectuals are in the habit of mentioning the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the religious wars that are indistinguishable from the Reformation, as proof that Christianity may be as bloody as any belief system. If it holds off on routine slaughter, it could be argued, then, like a passive-aggressive person, once it gets going, it goes for wholesale slaughter. Of course the totalitarianisms of the twentieth century, and the deaths of civilians since World War II, could make previous religious wars look, almost literally, like a Sunday School picnic. Are these recent developments a complete departure from Christianity, or a development of it? Are they, as George Grant might have asked, thinkable without it?

At any rate, Islam has probably been about as pro-life as Judaism and Christianity. By not saying so, Brog and Reynolds may be feeding the notion that Moslems are the barbarians who must be fought in the name of civilization, etc.