Darkness at the edge of town

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Martin Moodie
Martin Moodie is the Founder & Chairman of The Moodie Report.

[All WWHQ pictures: Minox DC 8011]

My training regime for the ‘Miles for Smiles’ fund-raising 10k run in Dubai on 22 November on behalf of cleft charity The Smile Train is about to get a whole lot harder.

There are worrying signs of winter approaching down in the deep, dark recesses of the garden at Chez Moodie, home to the original Worldwide HQ of The Moodie Report, also known as ‘The Shed’.

HQ backs onto a nature reserve, which offers the benefit of a magnificent, decades-old oak tree that overhangs The Moodie Report think-tank (if you ever see an article on our website that ends abruptly after the word ‘timber……..!’ you’ll know I have written my last).

It also provides welcome companionship in the form of squirrels and all manner of birdlife. But now the leaves on the giant oak are turning golden as autumn kicks in. Suddenly the mornings are distinctly cooler and with still over seven weeks to go to race-day, it’s going to take additional will-power to hit the dreadmill that now enjoys pride of place behind my desk in WWHQ.

At least while the trees are bathed in autumnal splendour it’s pleasant on the eye. In a month or so it’s just going to be dark and cold. So acclimatisation to the Dubai heat promises to be an interesting process in November. I’m flying in just the day before the big race to a place where my normal training regime involves a few pints at the Dubliners Bar with Dubai Duty Free boss Colm McLoughlin. I may just have to forget to tell him when I’m arriving and stock up on carbohydrates instead of Heineken instead.

In all truth my training regime is going slightly better than expected. At the weekend I completed over 6k – 6.27k to be precise. All done on my Bremshey dreadmill (above) which I bought because it was German and I had hoped their dreadmills may carry me in as much comfort as a BMW, Audi or Mercedes.

No such luck. But should I have expected anything different? After all, when did you last see a Bremshey hurtling down a German autobahn? It’s efficient alright though. Oh what I’d do for the occasional mechanical breakdown half-way through my daily training.

Anyway, as mentioned, the good news from the weekend was that I completed 6k. The bad news is that it took me an hour. At that speed I will be running for 100 minutes in the Dubai heat. Noel Coward famously said that mad dogs and Englishmen go out in the midday sun. Well the race is in the morning and I’m not an Englishman so make that mad kiwis go out in the late morning sun (probably very, very late morning by the time I finish).

Now one or two of my fellow runners who know about these things say it’s all about building endurance first, then speed. On my Bremshey dreadmill there is a dark, menacing label lurking on the fancy-looking electronic dashboard that looks as though it’s just come out of an Airbus A380. It’s something called ‘incline’ and it’s currently set at zero because I thought it meant how inclined was I to run.

Having giving it the lowest possible rating I discovered that it can actually set your training run onto various degrees of hill gradient. Frankly I’m terrified that one day I will collapse while running on my dreadmill, fall forward and hit the incline to the maximum and be found several days later, emaciated (but very, very fit) and moving up a hill at the fastest rate a Kiwi has been spotted doing since 1953 when Sir Edmund Hilary became the first man to scale Mount Everest.

‘Incline’ is like that locked room at the top of the stairs in all those horror movies, the one that guests are told never to enter but always do, when all hell breaks loose. And that’s exactly what will happen if I hit that button. Do not go there!

Not only are my inclinations to go up an incline minimal but in fact I’m thinking of contacting Bremshey to see if they produce an alternative model that offers a ‘decline’, which seems far more appropriate. Imagine that, a dreadmill that only went downhill – it would be a best-seller! I wonder why no-one’s thought of it?

I’ve been trying to alleviate the boredom and pain of running up and down while going precisely nowhere by taking notes for this Blog. But I ran into a fundamental problem – despite the fact that I am moving only at 6k per hour pace, trying to scribble notes while on a dreadmill leaves them about as decipherable as the average doctor’s note afterwards.

So I have opted for my trusty Olympus Digital Voice Recorder instead, hoping that one day they’ll invent one that doubles as a pacemaker. One develops a kind of gallows humour on a dreadmill. 20 or 30 years ago this would have been relatively easy stuff. I remember as a kid of 14 or 15 running around the steep Port Hills behind Christchurch in New Zealand where I was raised, and looking out over the fantastic panoramas of the Pacific Ocean.

Those were the days my friend, I thought they’d never end. But they did. That fit young lad has suffered the sort of alarming deterioration that you normally associate with a turkey in a before and after photo shoot on the day he visits the pre-Christmas abattoir.

But I’m going to make that 10k – I just have to build up the speed and the endurance. The endurance is coming but the speed is a real issue. I’ve been looking at ways to minimise both weight and wind resistance as I run. I read about swimmers and runners who shave their heads in order to cut milli-seconds off their times. Look at Usain Bolt I tell myself. Then again if I shave the Moodie pate, it will only take about one and a half seconds and remove (at last count) about three hairs. Over 10k, even into a desert storm, that’s unlikely to make a significant difference.

And so to diet. The copious amounts of grape juice and water referred to in an earlier Blog certainly make me feel better. As mentioned, of course, I have chosen to opt for a blended version, better known as Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc. I recommend in particular the Cloudy Bay, much easier to take than almost any health food you care to name. It lifts my spirits in the evening though it is proving less successful for the running speed in the mornings.

[Pictured: recommended runners’ health food with special dispenser]

I must lay off the biscuits – one of the other items on the Bremshey dashboard is called ‘calories’. I set it at 999 before I begin each run and notice with pleasure how quickly it counts down. That part of the regime is going well but as I never carried much weight in the first place I risk looking like a slightly thinner, whiter and significantly slower version of Haile Gebrselassie come November.

The thing that does make one feel good, however is the level of support that is flowing in for me and for the other runners. Rowena Holland of Essential Communications, who is doing a great job with organising the communications for the event, tells me that we’ve smashed the US$100,000 fund-raising barrier already. What an effort! That’s simply remarkable.

As I was gazing out at the darkness this morning and thinking twice about whether to run or not, an e-mail popped in from my Just Giving site (www.JustGiving.com/MartinMoodie) from Yvonne Smiddy at Dubai Duty Free, together with a kind message. When you get that kind of support it doesn’t take too much effort to lace up the trainers. And if I need any more convincing, I simply take a look at the pre and post-op pictures of the cleft children and I’m positively raring to go. US$100,000 means life-transforming operations for 400 children. Tell me this industry hasn’t got a great collective heart…

This weekend I’m actually going to be in Dubai – please no-one tell Colm I’m coming as I have to train – where I will be testing my progress via a 5km outdoor run. It’s a lot hotter there at the moment, so please, any readers living in the UAE who spot what looks like a slow-moving broiled tomato being held up by a couple of milk bottles, spare me a wave.

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