Wednesday, October 27, 2010

One month later

A very quick check-in one month after the big day. I did get ill, three days after the run. I guess that my resistance was low after the strain of the race, after which it was a good hour before I could get in the shower and change out of the rain soaked gear. Not surprising really that I should catch a cold, which then dragged on in the form of a slightly irritating cough for a couple of weeks. So I didn't get to attempt my personal best 10km two weeks after the marathon that I had planned. It was actually three weeks before I managed to go out for a run again. Next planned race is a ten km in Wales in January. More deetails to follow. I have also registered for the Berlin Half Marathon on 3rd April next year, though I declined the invitation to register for next year's marathon. 

Here is a photo of me close to the end of the marathon running through the Brandenburg Gate.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Two Days Later

Thanks to everyone for the encouragement and congratulations via e-mail, comments to this blog or Facebook. Also a big thanks again to all who sponsored me and helped me to raise money for the new Buddhist centre. (It is still of course possible, just click here!).

Two days after the event I feel surprisingly fit and well. It rained during virtually the whole time, which may indeed have been better than if it had been sunny. Apart from soggy feet, it helped to prevent me from dehydrating. To avoid this hazard I also drank litres of water and 'power drinks' at every refreshments station along the way, where I likewise consumed countless bananas.

Despite all the fears and expectations of hitting 'the wall' around the 30 or 35 km mark I experienced nothing of the sort, which in a wierd kind of way is something of a disappointment! Did I do something wrong? Apart from the super sense of satisfaction of having fulfilled this goal and of having helped raise money for the new Buddhist centre, I am really impressed by the accuracy of the training plan that I followed. The plan was to run the course in 3 hours and 47 minutes and came from 'the book'. In the event I ran it in 3:46:47, thirteen seconds within the limit. Similarly I completed my half marathon in April around half a minute in time. It was helpful to have a pulse meter which helped me to maintain a fairly constant pace, and I could also make sure I didn't set out too fast at the beginning.

The photos were taken by Mokshasiddha at 14km (left) and 40 km (right).

For anyone interested in such things, the split timings were as follows: 

Split        Time of day     TimeDiffmin/kmkm/h
5 km09:36:53         00:25:28         25:28          05:06           11.79
10 km10:03:1700:51:5126:2305:1711.37
15 km10:30:1701:18:5127:0005:2511.11
20 km10:56:4901:45:2326:3205:1911.31
25 km11:23:3202:12:0620:5605:2211.18
30 km11:51:4002:40:1428:0805:3810.66
35 km12:18:3303:07:0826:5405:2311.15
40 km12:46:3703:35:1228:0405:3710.69

More statistics:

My overall pace was 5:23 minutes per km
My average heart rate was 156
I finished 10,397th out of 34,027 overall
Of the men in the 50-54 age group I was 1088 of 3322
Among all the men I was 10397 out of 26597

The atmosphere was of course terrific despite the rain, as was the constant encouragement from the crowds. It was wonderful too to see many friends along the way.No doubt many memories will remain with me for many years to come. One of the more bizarre memories is of being massaged after the race in the rain on the lawn in front of the Reichstag! 

Although it was a great day which I will never forget, I do not intend to change my mind about not repeating the experience. I have already registered for next year's Berlin half marathon on 3rd April, but I will stick to halves in future.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

One Day...

Ran my last training run this afternoon - an easy four kilometers in gentle rain, followed by four 100 meter sprints. Ate a good portion of spaghetti for lunch. Occasionally experiencing some pre-race excitement / nervousness, which is to be expected I guess. The weather forecast is for rain the whole day, which is probably better than hot sunshine, though I hope it isn't too heavy. Am in the process of preparing  for an early start tomorrow, and will get to bed early, though I don't know how well I will sleep.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Pre-race nutrition

Home-made rhubarb crumble with ice-cream

Two Days....

I survived the crowds at the trade fair in Tempelhof and have collected my number! Having made my way to the far end of the hall where the numbers were strategically situated I managed to get out again with my wallet completely intact.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Three Days....

Another day nearer and another six kilometer training run, more realisticly paced than a couple of days ago, but still surprisingly fast. I'll certainly need to watch out that I don't set off too fast, which seems to be the most widespread mistake of marathon runners.

Tomorrow I have written a big "NOTHING" in my diary, although I intend to bake a rhubarb crumble before collecting my number from a trade fair at the former Tempelhof airport, and making a short trip to Ikea. Otherwise I will be aiming to chill out as much as possible until the start of the race at 9 o'clock on Sunday morning. Just a very short gentle run on Saturday evening.

I have learnt that a small group of supporters intend to meet around the 40km mark to cheer me on. I hope I make it that far!!!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Four Days...

Very tired today, having had a very full couple of days with late nights, which I am about to rectify by going to bed before 9.30. Yesterday evening I enjoyed co-leading a very well attended Padmasambhava Day celebration at the Buddhist Centre, which included four Mitra ceremonies, that is, four people publicly commiting themselves to the Buddhist Path in a short ceremony. I remember my own Mitra ceremony at the Norwich Buddhist Centre in England in 1993, one of the most memorable and significant moments in my life.

And now I'd better get to bed.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Five days to go

Just returned from a six kilometer training run, rather surprised by my time. I followed my pulse meter and ran at around 85% of my maximum pulse rate (which should be my marathon race tempo). I ended up apparently running faster than ever, with a pace of 4:42 per kilometer. If I keep that up on Sunday we'll all be in for a surprise. I'd finish well under three and a half hours! Dream on....

I have been following a training plan with goal of finishing in three and three quarter hours. Of course, that would be great, though I will be really happy if I run under four hours, and happy enough if I manage to complete the course at all.

I continue to be plagued by fears that I could get ill before Sunday. Every other person I meet seems to have some kind of cold or flu, and I do meet a lot of people, at the Buddhist centre and in my English teaching. I keep reciting my mantra: I will not get ill - I will not get ill - I will not get ill...

Mr Price is on the left, but where am I?

Friday, September 17, 2010

number 30522

I have just registered on-line my 'contact persons' in the event of my hospitalisation during the marathon! In the course of which I learnt that my number will be 30522, which I guess may well reflect my final position.

I haven't heard anything specific to confirm that my main rival, Haile Gebrselassie (pictured left), world record holder and four times winner of the marathon in Berlin, will not be running, but judging from the latest news from the organisers, it looks like he really has pulled out. What a shame! I had been looking forward to giving him a run for his money.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Two Weeks to go

This weekend I ran a reasonably fast 10km on Saturday and a gentle 7km on Sunday around Stadtpark Lichtenberg. Generally my training programme is tapering off, so apart from a 20 km on Thursday I'll run nothing more than 8km before the marathon on 26th.

The weekend was full of enjoyable activities, beginning with a meditation in Volkspark Friedrichshain, in beautiful late summer sunshine. In the evening Claudia and I heard went to a benefit concert at the University of Arts to see the Ensemble Incendo perform Piano quintets by Shostakovich and Schumann. It was a stunning concert. Both pieces, as well as the performance, were outstanding.

On Sunday morning Claudia and I visited the dahlia exhibition in Britzer Garden, a feast of colours and forms, and in the evening we attended an evening of music and meditation at the Buddhist centre, where we listened to a recording of Brahms' First Piano Concerto.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Past Lives

Last night at our Sangha Evening at the Buddhist Centre I spoke about my life and how I have come to be in Berlin. I showed a few photos and talked about some of the milestones along the way, which of course took longer than intended. I had planned to talk about my life, my practice and my inspiration. Well, the practice and inspiration will have to wait for another time. What I had to say seems to have been well received by the 30 or so people present. Looking back confirms that one can always change. For most of my life even the prospect of talking to more than three people at a time brought me out in a sweat. I sometimes find it difficult to recognise myself in the unconfident and painfully shy person I was in the past.

Yesterday I also ran a fairly gentle 10km along the canal. I am rather relieved that the really long training runs are over as they take up so much time. I still plan to run a 20km on Thursday next week, but otherwise nothing more than 10 or 12 in the tapering phase. In fact, the time needed to train for a marathon is probably the main reason why I can't imagine myself wanting to run more than one. I have every intention of continuing to run after September 26th, but I will probably restrict myself in future to half marathons.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Ten Years in Berlin

Ten years ago today I arrived in Berlin, having spent two days travelling from Padmaloka near Norwich in East England. Early in the morning of 4th September 2000 I set out on my bicycle to Colchester, where I stayed overnight with Amoghavajra in his community. From there I went to Harwich where I caught a ferry to Hamburg, travelling with Claus-Wilhelm and Mahananda, who were visiting Germany on holiday. I was also pleasantly surprised to meet an old friend John, who was taking a short trip on the same ferry by chance.

My first view of Germany as we approached the Elbe in the early morning is captured in this photo. It was raining as I arrived, and was met by a smiling Nirmala, a good friend, who took me for breakfast and after putting me up for the night, set me on a train to Berlin, where I was met by Anomarati, the Chair of the Buddhist Gate of Berlin, who welcomed me with a bouquet of flowers.

Last week I was very tired and possibly also suffering from a chill. Therefore I couldn't complete my training runs as planned. On Thursday I didn't even try to run the 16km which was on my training plan. However I did travel to Vimaladhatu for the weekend, which I thoroughly enjoyed. Although I didn't manage another 35km, I did run 28km on Saturday. I had to finish a little earlier, otherwise I would not have been back in time to give the short presentation I had offered to give.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

To Vimaladhatu

Off to Vimaladhatu tomorrow for the annual Central European Order Forum. I hope to run my last 35 km training run on Sunday, though I will no doubt have to start early in order to fit it in before the day's programme gets under way. Yesterday I had to drop the idea of running 10 x 1000m intervals, as I was still extremely tired from the exersions of last weekend. I am still tired and intend to get a 12 km run in tomorrow before breakfast. I don't yet know if that is too much. We'll see.

Who is this hirsute chappie? The photo was taken in County Clare, West Ireland in 1991.

Monday, August 30, 2010

New Shoes Again

On Saturday I visited Runners Point again and treated myself to a second pair of Asics GT-2150, this time with Lime Green stripes. Whether the colour will make a difference to my performance remains to be seen. I'll try them out tomorrow, when I'm scheduled to run 10 x 1000 metre intervals.

I have been having some pain in my right foot during the past months. After about 30 or 40 minutes I get a pain just behind my three outside toes. The shop assistant on Saturday did an analysis of my running style and suggested that although I 'pronate' on my left foot and therefore need a shoe with a support function, my right foot seems to require less. That could mean that the right foot is unnecessarily being forced over to the outside.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Four Weeks to go

This morning I ran my second 35 km: a little more than three and a half hours. It went much better than the first one two weeks ago, partly on account of the weather, partly because I was better prepared with energy bars, and also because I guess I am simply fitter. I even managed to run the last 10 km at marathon pace, in accordance with the training plan. For most of the time it rained which was not uncomfortable, and I didn't need to drink so much water as two weeks ago. Having something to eat prevented that feeling of exhaustion at the end, which was just as well, because less than an hour afterwards I visited friends nearby for a barbecue.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Photos from Leek

at the start

A great service is provided by . They take hundreds of race photos and make them available on-line, free to download! Take a look. They also published the full results.: click here. Here are a couple of high resolution photos of me during the race, which Bryan, the photographer sent me:

3.5 miles

yes, it was hot

12 miles

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Leek Half Marathon

Following a pleasant couple of days with various members of my family in West Wales on the occasion of my nephew's wedding, early yesterday morning my brother Llion drove me three hours across the country to Leek, where I ran in the half marathon. I hadn't expected to run a particularly fast time, because the course contains a lot of very steep hills. Apart from a couple of miles of relatively flat road in the middle of the course, where the outstanding views across the very beautiful countryside makes one forget the pain completely, the rest of the course seemed to consist of very steep ups and very steep downs. Not at all what I am used to in Berlin and Brandenburg.

I was however, very happy with my performance. I don't yet know the official results but my time was around 1 hour 53 minutes. Llion kindly drove me to East Midlands airport straight afterwards, and I arrived home at half past midnight, understandably tired.

My stay in Wales was extremely pleasant, not just on account of the occasion and the opportunity to meet up with family again, but the beauty of the West Wales countryside as well as the location of my Bed and Breakfast and the very friendly hospitality of the owners. It was also great to experience the Welsh language being spoken as a first language among the family and friends of my nephew's wife.

Thanks to Llion for the photos.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Listening to my body

At five o'clock this morning it was still dark, and it was 13°C which gave me the distinct sense that autumn is just around the corner. As I am off to Wales this evening to attend my nephew's wedding I needed to fit my training run in this morning and set off around 5.10. Soon after getting under way it became clear that I needed to rethink my scheduled 12 km at 85% HFmax (maximum heart frequence) as my body was telling me in no uncertain terms that it was not up to it, no doubt partly because it is still recovering from Sunday, but also I have been very active the last few days. So I only ran 9.5 km, but still managed to enjoy it. On Sunday I'm due to run in the Leek half marathon, so it'll be interested what my body says to the prospect then.

I have always considered it important to listen to my body, especially since becoming vegetarian nearly thirty years ago. Not being prepared to invest vast amounts of time in researching how to eat a balanced diet and meet my nutritional needs I have always followed my intuition in this regard. No doubt I could fine tune my sensibility at times, but so far so good.

Great to have seen a fox this morning while running nearby the canal.

Monday, August 16, 2010

and yesterday I ran 36 km

At the end it was tough, I have to admit. Yesterday I ran my first '35 km', the first of three that I should complete according to my training plan. I ran along the riverside in Treptower Park several times. Despite the forecast rain, the weather was pleasant, maybe a bit too warm, and the park was teaming with people out for their Sunday 'constitutional', as well as a host of other runners.

On the way I drank a liter and a half of water, and managed to increase the tempo for the last 5 km, (though admittedly not by much). At the end I felt totally exhausted, and felt quite unwell for an hour or so. A hot bath and a good meal helped considerably and a couple of hours later I was able to enjoy an hour's walk around the locality and an ice cream with Claudia.

No trouble with bleeding nipples this time! In order to help the plasters to stick, I shaved the hair around my nipples (another first for me), and it did help. It itches like mad though!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Yesterday I ran my first 30 km....

... and this is what I looked like afterwards, complete with water bottles, heartrate monitor and nipple plasters!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Personal Best

I was very happy to have run a personal best time for 10 km on Saturday evening in the Berlin City Night run. A typical Berlin festival atmosphere mingled with the tourists around Zoo Station and the Memorial Church before the start. I can't say I'm a great fan of the Ku'Damm area, the city centre of West Berlin, and I rarely go there, but on this occasion I thoroughly enjoyed it.

Here are the statistics:

net time: 47:37
overall position: 1225 / 5700
position (age group) 93 / 361
4:46 per km
average speed: 12.6 km/h

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Running Late

Just a few hours to go before the City Night run, which starts at 8.30 this evening. I hope I won't need them today, but I called in to Runners Point this morning and bought myself some 'nipple protection plasters' as well as an 'energy centre', which is basically two small bottles for carrying water for the forthcoming longer training runs.

I have decided to run in the Leek Half Marathon in England on 22nd August. I'm in Britain anyway that weekend, and a half marathon competition fits in well with my training plan. The organisers warn that it is a hilly course, so I have no expectations of a best time.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Running Early

It seems a bit absurd that I'm sitting at my laptop at 6 o'clock in the morning, dripping with sweat before I take a shower. I have just enjoyed a great run along the canal in the tranquil early morning atmosphere of the slowly awakening city. I ran 7.5 km at a good pace, a pace I hope to match on Saturday when I participate in the Berlin City Night run, 10 km starting as the sun goes down. It takes a bit of effort to get started so early in the morning, unsurprisingly the body has some resisitance to being forced out of the cosy comfort of bed to be forced to race along the street, even before breakfast. But once it gets going, it is a delight, and I even get to enjoy the peace and quiet of the still slumbering community when I return.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Getting Lost in Teltow-Fläming

Yesterday I ran the longest distance I've ever run. I'd planned a 20 kilometer run along two signposted nordic walking routes, but because some signs were missing I ended up running 28.7 km instead. I felt a bit cheated somehow, not to say pretty tired. Trying to keep my heart rate at the planned 70% of the maximum, meant that it was also an incredibly slow and long run: three and aquarter hours. This morning I feel remarkably well, considering...

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Jogger's Nipples and Cello Scrotum

A problem I've had over the last few weeks has been 'runner's nipples'. Really! Due to the extreme heat and consequent sweating, the chafing of my wet shirt on my nipples has sometimes been extremely painful, even to the extent that they have bled. Looking down at my shirtfront and seeing blood stains was quite a shock the first time! In the last week the problem has eased a little and I have discovered that if I keep wiping the sweat from my neck, the shirt doesn't get wet so quickly. I am also kind of relieved that it is an acknowledged condition - see the article on Wikipedia Technically known as fissure of nipple, there are also some useful suggestions for its prevention which I might try. I tried sticking plaster, but they don't stick very well. The photo isn't of my nipple by the way, but copied from Wikipedia and copyrighted by the photographer C0nsumer and licensed under creative commons.

I did some enjoyable interval training this morning, getting up at 5.30 again to enjoy the relatively cool air, and running 10 x 400 metres with 400 metre jogging in between.

By the way, you'll need to read the Wikipedia article to learn about Cello Scrotum.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tired but Cultured

It was a difficult run this morning. Having planned a 10 km 'race tempo' before breakfast I cut the distance by half and arrived home just as the ran started. It wasn't the threat of rain though. I am simply a bit over tired due to a combination of getting up early to train during the last couple of weeks and not making up lost sleep and the on-going hot weather. The three hours steady rain this morning is the first we've seen here for a month or so, and the temperature has dropped to 28°, but the foredast is for a return to 30°+ in the coming week.

During my time in Luckenwalde recently I read a very clear book by Aaron Copland called What to Listen for in Music, which has inspired me to broaden my awareness of composers and their works. To this end I have been working my way through Bach's 48 Preludes and Fugues, which I find incredibly beautiful. Earlier in the year I immersed myself in Shostakovich's Preludes and Fugues, which were inspired by the composer's response to Bach's works. Another composer who recieves several mentions in Copland's book is Charles Ives, who I had not heard before, and am now in the process of exploring. Who'd ever have thought it?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Back in Berlin

I am back in Berlin after my five week 'sabbatical', although I have calculated that I was in Berlin on 12 days during this time, either teaching English or attending meetings to do with the purchase and redevelopment of our new Buddhist centre. On one level it feels that I have hardly been away, but on the other hand I notice that the break has definitely done me a bit of good - maybe helped me to gain some perspective on my situation here.

During the nearly ten years that I have been here this is the longest period I have spent away from the activities at the Buddhist centre. This is of course no surprise, as it is the centre that is my overriding reason for moving to Berlin in the first place.

The last couple of weeks in Luckenwalde saw the rich green of the surrounding countryside rapidly turn brown and dry as temperatures have soared to intimidating heights, that means I have to get up early in the morning or wait until quite late in the evening to avoid running in temperatures of well over 30°C. One advantage of running so early in the day was that yesterday morning I enjoyed an unexpected sighting of a baby wild pig as well as a deer and several storks.
This morning my health checks continued with a visit to a radiologist, who scanned my stomach and liver, following a borderline blood test a couple of months ago. Happily I received the all clear.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Countdown has begun

Monday saw the beginning of my 12-week training plan - I ran a gentle 8 kilometers through the woods close to Claudia's cottage where I've been generally based for the past month. It was 27° and humid, but I always enjoy these runs through the woods. Something nearly always catches my eye. On Monday it was a pair of buzzards, sitting on a fallen tree on the edge of the woods, last week a pair of pheasants and a hare on the track in front of me. I also recently encountered a deer and for the first time saw a black woodpecker.

This evening the German national football team failed to make it to the final in the World Cup. Earlier this evening I went for a ten km run along the canal shortly before the match started. The cafes offering public viewing of the match were buzzing with fans sporting the black, red and gold of the German flag. Apart from a short spell as a Liverpool fan when I was ten years old I have never really been interested in football. Of course, I have a vague memory of the 1966 World Cup final - it took place on the day of our arrival at a caravan park in Bacton-on-Sea in Norfolk, where we had a family holiday. The treatment of football and the players by the media strikes me as a bit wierd to be honest, perhaps almost as wierd as the fact that so many people get so emotionally involved in what in the end is 'just a game'.

This afternoon I finally got along to the urologist and was given the all clear as far as my prostate is concerned. I couldn't help thinking what a strange job that is - it's a great thing that people are preapared to become urologists, but I can't imagine what drives someone to specialise in this particular field. Next week I'm off to the dermatologist and the radiologist for further routine check-ups for the over 50s.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Update from Luckenwalde

Well, the weather has been pleasant enough. I have also continued to enjoy making headway with the Empathic Civilization - just over a hundred pages to go. In the last few days I've been joined by Karunabandhu, who is doing some repair work on one of the sheds in the garden, and I've enjoyed helping out where I can. I continue to run every other day, still just gentle outings through the woods, preparatory to the start of the training plan in a couple of weeks time.

Apparently the world cup has started again. It is a vaguely interesting phenomenon that it manages to attract such attention, and therefore money, from so many around the world, but otherwise I can't really get excited about it.

Below are some photos from the last couple of weeks in Luckenwalde.

The woods where I train

The Buddha hill in the garden
(It used to be a rubbish heap)

A Poppy in the sun

A poppy and a bee

Courgette seedlings

Ornamental grass

Garden shed roof repairs

A very tiny baby rat?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

I'm back in Berlin for my weekly visit. My first week in Luckenwalde has been very enjoyable and relatively eventful. As well as spending a good deal of time pottering in the garden, cutting the grass, and coming to terms with the incredibly complicated watering system and trying to simplify it, I have been engrossed in a new book by Jeremy Rifkin called the Empathic Civilization. I still have around half of the 600 or so pages to go, but the effort seems well worth it, if only for the delightfully readable style with which the author draws on all aspects of the entire history of mankind in relating his thesis, that
"at the very core of the human story is the paradoxical relationship between empathy and entropy. He observes that at various times in history new energy regimes have converged with new communication revolutions, creating ever more complex societies. More technologically dadvanced cultures, in turn, have brought together more diverse people, heightened empathic sensitivity, and expanded human consciousness. But these increasingly complicated milieus require extensive energy use and speed us toward resource depletion.

The irony is that our growing empathic awareness has been made possible by an ever-greater consumption of the Earth's energy and other resources, resulting in a dramatic deterioration in the health of the planet"
At least according to the notes in the dust jacket. It is certainly a gripping read, for someone like me who has never really managed to grasp an overview of the history of mankind, whether in the sphere of politics, psychology, religion or any other.

At the weekend Luckenwalde hosted the 20th Turmfest (Tower festival?) , a weekend fair involving the transforming of the town centre into a venue for music and entertainment. There were three stages, providing for all tastes, from country and western to rap, as well as the usual fair ground rides and bars and fast food stands. I managed to persuade Claudia to join me on Friday evening to see Engerling, a blues-based band from the former DDR, who can evidently still create a good atmosphere, and I enjoyed hearing them. They did great cover versions of Dead Flowers and Riders on the Storm.

On Sunday Claudia and I had guests and took them to the miniscule town zoo, which comprises little more than a few deer, wild boar, miniature goats ponies, donkies, various birds and apair of brown bears. It was however a pleasant outing, and probably the quietest zoo I have ever been to.

Of course I have been continuing to run. Officially I am in a recovery period before embarking on my 12 week marathon training plan at the start of July. Therefore I resisted the temptation to join in the 10 km race on Saturday that is part of the annual fair, and have jogged my way through the woods near the cottage every couple of days. After all it was less than a week beforehand that I ran a half marathon. My next race is the 10 km Berlin City Night run on 31st July.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Photos from the International Retreat

Many thanks to Petra, who sent me the following photos from the recent International Retreat at Taraloka.

with my dad at Taraloka

serving dinner to the 430 retreatants

Thirteen Years Old

Yesterday I celebrated the thirteenth anniversary of my private ordination into the Western Buddhist Order, recently renamed the Triratna Buddhist Order. On 8th June 1997 I received my name as well as the mantra of my visualisation practice from Ashvajit, my private preceptor. I wrote a bit about receiving my name a few months ago, here. I have re-read my diary entry from that time, describing my happiness at receiving my name and participating in the ritual, which seemed to go by "in a flash", and took place in the context of a six hour long puja.

So after a pleasant three hour long walk with Claudia through the countryside surrounding the cottage, a five km gentle run through the woods and a little work in the garden Claudia and I celebrated my 'birthday' with a meal at our favourite Indian restaurant in Luckenwalde, Royal Mahal, which advertises itself as an Indian/Italian restaurant, but also serves specialities from other countries including Germany. The Indian food at any rate is superb.

Inside the Royal Mahal

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Potsdamer Schlössermarathon

It was a very early start this morning, in order to be in Potsdam in time to collect my start number on time, but everything went smoothly, even if the queue for the numbers appeared shockingly long at first sight. It was already very hot as the runners gathered in the stadium for the start at 9 o'clock, and it was probably clear to everyone that a gentler tempo would be appropriate under such conditions. Last year it apparently rained all day. Today the sun was relentless, which one shouldn't complain about, considering it has taken so long this year to make itself felt.

The course is really very attractive. One can get an impression from the photos here. Each time I visit Potsdam, which I have probably done about five times in the past ten years, I think to myself, that I would like to get to know the town a little more, but it is not so important that I have ever made the time to follow my thoughts through. The race began by taking us through the city centre, followed by several large parks, including Park Sanssouci and Park Babelsberg, with their famous palaces. We also crossed over the Glienicke Bridge, famous as the sight of exchanges of captured spies between the U.S. and the Soviet Union during the Cold War, for which the press coined the name, the 'Bridge of Spies'.

Given the conditions and the fact that due to my recent illness I had not trained much recently, I was satisfied with my result: I covered the course in a time of 1:55:53, finishing overall 802nd out of 2,706, and 70th in my age class.

Tomorrow after a meeting about the new Buddhist centre, I head off to Luckenwalde for a long-awaited break for five weeks, returning to Berlin once a week in order to teach English and thereby continuing to earn a little money, as well as keeping informed about progress with the new centre.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Back in Berlin

Yesterday evening I returned from a six day trip to Britain along with four others from Buddhistisches Tor. On Thursday we flew to Liverpool, took a train to Whitchurch in Shropshire from where we took a taxi to Taraloka on the England/Wales border. From Friday until Tuesday we enjoyed the company of 430 Buddhist practitioners from all over the world on the second Triratna International Retreat.

As well as meditation and puja we enjoyed talks, workshops and work periods together. It was a great weekend, and I really enjoyed meeting old and new friends, many of whom I have known for many years. The weather played its part in keeping the weekend's proceedings suitably varied and on the last evening we ritually marked the change of name of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order to the Triratna Buddhist Community.

I also managed a trip out with my dad, who now concedes that I can run ten kilometers faster than him, and on the evening after the event finished my sister Jane came over with her husband H and daughter Katie, and we went out for a glass of orange juice and lemonade in nearby Ellesmere.

During the event I found time to run a gentle 13 kilometers through the varied and pleasingly flat surrounding countryside, incorporating a disused stretch of railway, a canal towpath and a peat bog. This afternoon I ran a pleasant 5 km along my usual canal route here in Berlin, and am now looking forward to running in the half marathon in Potsdam on Sunday .

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Running again

Three full weeks since I felt well enough to run. Today I ran a comfortable five kilometers and could probably have managed more, but I didn't want to overdo it. This virus had come back a couple of times after I thought it was over.

Tomorrow I'm off to Taraloka on the border of England and Wales for a short retreat, during which we will celebrate Wesak, the anniversary celebration of the Buddha's enlightenment. A small group of Berliners are flying tomorrow afternoon to Liverpool John Lennon airport, from where we will travel to Taraloka by train. All being well I will participate in another half marathon very soon after I return. Due to the break in training, I will be happy just to jog along the course to the finish, rather than aim to break any records.

Today I received the official results magazine of the Berlin half marathon, and discovered that the fastest man in my age group ran over 30 minutes faster than me. Well, that's something to aim for, though I can't quite imagine it is a realistic goal.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Old age, Sickness and Death

Its almost two weeks since I started getting ill, and I still don't feel able to restart training. It takes it out of me to climb the stairs to my flat, although I am managing to get about by bicycle again, despite the weather. Patience is a spiritual practice that everyone who possesses a body can practise, especially as one gets older. It was his realisation of the facts of old age, sickness and death two and a half thousand years ago that provided the spur for Siddhartha to pursue the spiritual quest to its ultimate conclusion of Enlightenment when he became the Buddha. I will try to patiently accept my condition while hoping to be fit and well enough in order to take part in the half marathon in Potsdam on 6th June.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

BIG 25

The BIG 25 km is underway right now. In fact the winners have no doubt completed the course and maybe even received their prizes in the Olympic stadium. On Friday I collected my number - 4749 - with my running mate Harald, although I was pretty certain that I would not be well enough to run. For the second year running I have fallen ill just before this run and couldn't join the fun. It would have been my longest run yet, but last year I came down with flu the evening before, and this year I started sneezing non-stop on Thursday morning, and I am just now over the worst, but am still weak and breathless. It is enough climbing the stairs to the flat, never mind running 25 km. Next year.....

The number I would have had.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010


Yesterday I finished re-reading Moving Against the Stream, the most recent memoirs of Sangharakshita, the founder of the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order / Triratna, the Buddhist movement of which I am a part. In this book Sangharakshita describes his return to the West in the early sixties after two decades of living and practising in the East. The situation in the small world of British Buddhism at that time was quite different to that of the present, and I marvel and rejoice in the fact that Sangharakshita not only managed to survive those very difficult times, but also managed to found a new Buddhist movement that quickly grew and spread throughout not just Britain and the West, but throughout the world.

At school I don't remember ever having actually read a book from cover to cover, I simply couldn't see the point. It wasn't until about the age of twenty, having been working for five years on the roads, asphalting, mixing concrete and laying kerbstones, that I read short biographies of John Lennon and Jimi Hendrix, and soon discovered the books by the adventurer Thor Heyerdal, who became an early hero for me. I soon devoured all of his books, and thereby thankfully developed a broader perspective on life.

Later I studied philosophy and politics and therefore read quite a lot in these fields, although I rarely really found much inspiration or enthusiasm for these topics. A couple of names I remember from this time, of people whose writings really spoke to me, are Bertrand Russell, who was another great hero for me, and Jean-Paul Satre. I also dabbled with Kafka and Dostoevsky.

Having discovered the teachings of the Buddha in the early nineties, I am always happy to bury myself in Dharma books, especially primary sources, from the Buddhist canon, and books by Sangharakshita, of which there are many.

Nowadays, on account of my teaching English, I also get the chance to read modern novels with my students, which is something I never really got into before. Over the past four years we have read a very broad range of books, from The Secret Diary of Adrian Mole to Hanif Kureishi's Something to Tell You. Currently we are reading In the Kitchen, a novel by Monica Ali, though we have only just begun and it is therefore too early to comment.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

I went for a leisurely 9,5 KM run this morning along the canal. There were fewer people around than on Sunday, when it was rather too crowded. Below is a map of my route.

Friday, April 23, 2010

During the last couple of weeks, to complement my running, I've visited McFit four times, including my introductory session, working out on the diverse fitness machines and dutifully following my 'personal training plan' (which doesn't seem to differ very much from Satyasthira's plan). A couple of days following my first session, I had a bit of tingling in some of my chest and leg muscles, not quite stiffness, but I was aware that my muscles had been active. So far I've enjoyed the newness of the situation. It is a very different world from anything I've known, and the body-builders, busy with the weights and frequently checking their contours in the mirrors, has a kind of fascination. We'll see where it all leads, though I certainly have no thoughts of becoming a Mr. Universe contestant myself. There is a very funny clip from a Mr. Universe contest here.

This weekend I will be joining Vidyagita from Essen as representatives of the FWBO at the AGM of the German Buddhist Union, which is taking place at the Rigpa centre here in Berlin.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Getting used to Triratna

Last week on Wednesday, the 42nd anniversary of the founding of the Western Buddhist Order, members of the Order in Berlin celebrated a short ceremony marking the change of the name of the Order to the Triratna Buddhist Order, or in German Buddhistische Orden Triratna.

Triratna is Sanskrit and means the Three Jewels, the three jewels being the Buddha, the Dharma, the teaching of the Buddha, and the Sangha, or spirtual community. It is to these three things to which Buddhists go for refuge, therefore signifying the three most significant values for all Buddhists, around which they orientate their lives. More about the name change can be found here.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010


I am currently enjoying a bit of a love affair with the music of Shostakovich, and in fact music generally. Music has always played a significant role in my life, from the early days of the Beatles (the first record I owned was 'She Loves You', given to me for my sixth birthday) through the 'underground' music of the Edgar Broughton Band, the straight rock of Free, back to the roots with the Blues, and later enjoying Frank Zappa's very humorous inventiveness. I started playing guitar while still at school and later played in various bands, and even spent several months supporting myself by playing the banjo on the streets of Norwich. I came to a late discovery of orchestral and classical music, after years of being a staunch Philistine, but it is barely possible not to be learn to appreciate classical music and the arts generally when living in Berlin, where there is so much on offer. I have even begun trying to learn a little bit of music theory.

I have come to recognise how really moving music can be. I'm frequently moved to tears these days by the power of music, not always in a sentimental way (though I suspect there is an element of this sometimes, when for example I am moved by the 'old songs of the sixties'). A couple of years ago I was privileged to receive a free ticket to see a performance of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony, and it seemed to me that everyone in the concert hall was weeping. Now it is Shostakovich that is moving me and I feel I am beginning to appreciate what Sangharakashita means when he says that the arts can be a means of assisting spiritual growth and development. It's just so difficult to express it in words, which is of course why the arts exist. As an artist friend once said, quoting a former teacher of his, if you can put it into words, well you don't need to paint it.

And the piece that has me completely overwhelmed at the moment, and which I have decided should be the music to be played at my funeral is Shostakovich's Prelude and Fugue in D minor.