Monday, September 19, 2005

Comfortably Numb

"Hello (hello... hello...) ... is there anybody out there?... just nod if you can hear me... Is there anyone home?" blah blah blah...

(Please see and listen to Pink Floyd or the Scissor Sisters - I have a version for every generation - well, two I suppose if I am being pedantic.)

But yes, I have BECOME comfortably NUMB - for a few weeks and in blogging terms anyway. I have entered and dwelled awhile in a new place that I would like to name CLARE'S BLOG HOLE.

For clarification, let me refer to Wikipedia: "According to classical general relativity, neither matter nor information can flow from the interior of a black hole to an outside observer." HMMM sounds about right - well almost. This definition presumes that I had something to say from within my BLOG HOLE. However, I can categorically deny this. I had nothing to say, no wit, no ideas. It just all went away. Life, for a short while became simple again. And I liked it!

But tonight I am back, ripped from my hole by a news story that really has made me sad - and which perhaps I shouldn't refer to in the same post as the flippant comments above. So I shall leave a suitable space:

(I am afraid that this space isn't suitable - but it will have to do)

The Great North Run
In the car, on my way home from work, I heard on the radio that four men had died yesterday having participated in the Great North Run. Now this is truly awful - almost unbelievable really. Obviously at a personal level the tragedy experienced by the friends and families is indescribable, and I am not about to comment about that. But for other reasons too, I find this a really sad story.

The Great North Run is a tremendous race - the largest half marathon in the world. Yesterday, around 50,000 people took to the streets of Newcastle and beyond to achieve a personal or perhaps charity-driven goal - namely to run 20kms, or 13.1 miles. I watched some of it - this was unplanned viewing. I had returned from a comparitively very modest jog around the woods and had turned the TV on while stretching. I was so moved to see all those thousands of people running, and all their supporters watching. I was moved to tears by some of the personal stories - five medical staff were running to raise money in memory of a colleague: a liver transplant survivor, who had subsequently trained to become a nurse specialising in working with transplant patients. She had died this January, aged only thirty, but had inspired her colleagues to run to raise money to fund other nurses to specialise in working with transplant patients.

Stories like these are both extraordinary and commonplace at these mass participation endurance events, and seem to inspire everyday people to set themselves goals that are outside of their everyday limits. Personally, I think that this is absolutely fantastic. That other people can pound the streets to raise money for others I find amazing. This inspiration is generated largely by the very positive media coverage that these events spawn (not spurn!). I am another sort of runner - a selfish one: I have never run to raise money for others - simply to achieve my own goals and for the sheer exhiliration of knowing that 'I have done it'. But I don't think that this matters particularly. Hats off to anyone who runs, or tries to run thirteen miles. I have done it - and it is very, very difficult.

SO I am really sad, that an event such as this should be remembered, and covered extensively in the media because of the tragic deaths of four runners. I don't know the details about how they died - but I do know that newspaper and media reports blaming the organisation of this event are irresponsible. I am also speaking from experience when I say that the weather yesterday wasn't hot enough to exclusively take the blame either. The Great West Run takes place every May bank holiday. It is usually boiling hot - hot enough for friendly firemen to be spraying their hoses - and for severe surnburn to the shoulders - and as far as I am aware, no one has died.

The fact seems to me to be that no corporate group or weather phenomenon can be blamed for these tragic deaths. As far as I am aware, the organisation was marvellous, with ambulances and water readily available for competitors. The media seem to have taken possession of these events - and caused the growth in their popularity. It would be really sad if irresponsible reporting, and the need to find a scapegoat, where none exists, leads to yet more beaurocracy and nanny-stating. I am afraid that, as hard as it sounds, any sunday morning run carries risks, as does any bike ride or walk on the hills. I am desperately sorry for those touched by the deaths of the four runners - and the runners themselves - but while I can choose to run and participate in events of this kind, I am firmly aware that the sole responsibility for my well-being rests with one person: me.


Blogger Mary Plain said...

I'm glad you have come back from your blog hole, Simply Clare, I've missed you. But how sad a story you have shared- I hadn't heard it, having been in a news hole this weekend (freshers, you know). And as you say, how sad if the media yet again create an issue to sell their stories when as you say such events as the Great North Run are so well -organised and so worthwhile. I don't run- makes this bear's sciatica play up- but my friends who do would recognise what you say about such events and my own experience of cycling is similar. I do worry that we are creating a world where taking risks is seen as always about the other person's responsibility to keep us safe, not our own decision..
and on a different note, how's this for a verification code? must be one of the best yet.. let's hope I am reading it right! rlpamtdw!

9:17 PM  
Blogger Dr. Rob said...

If I remember rightly the guy who popularised (I can't say invented) jogging, died while jogging, rugby players die whilst playing rugby, equestrian sports are the most dangerous with the highest death count - take Superman for example, people fall off mountains and get eaten by sharks whilst surfing, (not at the same time, i might add, but it is possible in some parts of the world, i guess, I myself might well drown on my marathon walk to Plymouth USA! But should we stop playing sport, should we if fact stop living, in case we die? I think the common sense answer is NO. Scientists may come up with another answer, after all I am just a sociologist, what do I know!

8:57 AM  
Blogger guy said...

wc uq u p x (verification code). Well make of that what you will...yes, this story is sad and it does seem to me that there's all sorts of contradictions about risk-taking around at the moment. The media hypes up 'extreme sport' yet stokes up paranoia in tube-travellers. We send troops into dangerous situations, keep our children indoors and watch their every move on the net. We face dangers on a daily basis (even if they're only dozy drivers)and usually make sensible decisions in avoiding them. Thanks for the posting and welcome back!

7:02 PM  

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