Category Archives: A1 – the best of roads of stone

75. The Cruel Sea – the Indian Ocean tsunami

“We learn geology the morning after the earthquake”.
Ralph Waldo Emerson – American poet, lecturer and essayist (1803-1882).

“We have very little control over external forces such as tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, disasters, illness and pain. What really matters is …. How do I respond to those disasters ? Over that I have complete control.”
Leo F. Buscaglia – American guru and Professor at the University of Southern California (1924-1998).

“An earthquake achieves what the law promises but does not in practice maintain – the equality of all men.”
Ignazio Silone – Italian author and earthquake orphan (1900-1978).

(Photos © AP, AFP, Getty Images)

If ever there were a week for new perspectives, then this is it.
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64. Olympic laurels – Athens 2004

A cold late summer evening, thirty two years ago now, the failing light still dim across the expanse of time. We’d just left our holiday in Northern Italy behind, and were driving homewards, out of the rush that is Torino into the deep and dark Aosta valley. Dusk found us atop the Grand Saint Bernard Pass, just inside France. Hannibal had passed the other way, with his elephants, from Carthage to Rome two thousand years ago. Another famous general had also clearly stayed here, as the hotel we found perched high in the cooling mountain air advertised itself as Napoleon’s Bivouac.

kelly-holmes-paula-radcliffe-athens-olympics-2004-barcelona-1992.jpgThis young boy, bleary-eyed and assaulted by novel aromas of Alpine cheeses, pizza, and something else I can only now define as essence of mountain hut, sat hungrily down to dinner way past his bed-time. But the overriding impressions came not from the food, nor even the place, but from the scene playing out in front of a rough crowd of locals and tourists.

One and all, we stood or sat, transfixed around the television as a young Olga Korbut changed gymnastics, and the Olympics, for ever.
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56. Paris – a view from the Champs de Mars

eiffel-tower-picasso-blue-roofs-and-champs-de-mars-paris.jpgKicking down the cobblestones on a warm and sultry morning, there are just a few marble steps to climb ahead. And already, blue sky is rent by cool bronze metal, still tepid in the hazy sunshine across the river. From here at the Trocadero, the Eiffel Tower stands framed amidst the Champs de Mars. The green baize stretches far into the sun, with only the black morning menace of the Montparnasse Tower revealing the modern face of the golden city beyond.

If a million strands are bound together to make a life, then the thread of Paris runs through much of mine. Continue reading

51. London Calling

london-skyline-gherkin-and-tower-42.jpgLondon calling to the faraway towns
Now that war is declared
And battle come down

Engines stop running
But I have no fear
London is drowning
And I live by the river
The Clash – January 1980

Around the corner, the view suddenly opens up. I see the City skyline first, then the turrets, and finally the bridge itself. Tower Bridge. The London Marathon, 12 miles. It’s the greatest sight in world running – and I’ve no doubt about that.

The crowds here are massive, the roar of noise incredible. Twelve-deep and wildy enthusiastic on the bridge, the line of spectators is even thicker, more frenzied on the other side. If the cold rain has been falling all morning, now it’s cascading. Running beside me is a chef, tossing pancakes all the way. I’m cold and drenched from head to foot, and the crowds must be soaked through, too. My race has just fallen apart, but it doesn’t matter, since this is the London Marathon.
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45. T-I-R-E-D

My computer hard disk crashed yesterday, which seemed appropriate. It wasn’t the only hardware that was suffering.

papercourt-lock-river-wey.jpgThe Bath Half Marathon last week gave me a useful opportunity to experience the thrill of racing again, and to assess my fitness levels.

The appalling weather also offered a good ‘dry run’ (if that’s the correct word) for running a race in the wet, if that’s the weather which should be served up by the London Marathon. 

A successful day, but I’ve paid for it since. My legs have been stiff and heavy. My motivation’s been tested, and found wanting. Hell, I felt tired. I still do.
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43. A sense of time – Earth history and the London Marathon


In geology, you learn about time. About a lot of time.

As I look from my window upon the Surrey Downs, I see the Chalk and Greensand hills, walked by pilgrims heading east to Canterbury for eight hundred years and more. That seems a lot of time.

But to the Earth, it’s nothing. Our planet is around 4.6 billion years old, give or take a few. That IS a lot of time.

A new perspective is required, so let’s imagine the Earth’s own lifetime as a marathon course. The longest journey, but even in this unimaginable race, every 100 million years meant just one kilometre en route from Greenwich to The Mall.
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