Tag Archives: marathon

IN MEMORIAM

I have massive sympathy for the victims of the bomb blasts on Monday 15th April – in multiple locations with at least 42 people killed and over 257 wounded it is a story that deserves to have featured highly in news bulletins. Sadly yet another series of bombs targeting civilians in Iraq does not seem to have warranted much coverage by western media. In Boston, however, an equally shocking yet far less lethal attack at the finish line of the marathon did receive wall to wall coverage.
The media coverage continued, enabling the world to watch as two suspects were rapidly identified and tracked down; at times it seemed just like an episode of ’24’ or similar. The media did seem to treat both suspects as guilty despite no trial having been conducted; they certainly appeared to present plenty evidence to support this. I truly hope that the numerous law enforcement agencies continued to consider alternatives throughout the ensuing manhunt – I don’t know enough about the exact details to dispute the decision to pursue the brothers, but I can imagine that two innocent people subjected to such high profile media coverage might be panicked into flight rather than giving themselves up. I certainly hope that the correct suspects have been identified and that the motivation behind the attack may soon be revealed.
It has now been announced that the surviving brother has been formally charged with, among other things, use of weapons of mass destruction. Again, without meaning any disrespect for the victims, I find it rather ironic the the US are so outraged by the bombing of innocent civilians in Boston when for many years large numbers of Irish Americans seemed to be more than happy to offer moral and financial support to the IRA who were regularly causing death and carnage by bombing innocents in Northern Ireland and mainland UK. Throughout all this time it always seemed sufficient to refer to the devices as bombs and IEDs, rather than WMDs. It has always been my understanding that a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ is defined as a weapon that kills or injures civilian as well as military personnel, and is particularly referenced to nuclear, biological and chemical weapons. Given the number of fatalities and casualties in Boston, I feel sure that many of the legally held automatic weapons so treasured by the NRA must also now be re-classsified as WMDs.

In years gone by there were several organisations in Boston which raised funds for the Irish Republican movement, some of which was allegedly used to buy weapons for the IRA. Following the September 11th attacks, the US Government increased its pressure on the Irish Republican movement in the US. In October 2001 the IRA announced their intention to “decommission and put their weapons “beyond use”. The change of attitude was mirrored by an Irish-American taxi-driver in Boston; in a report following the announcement, he said “I never thought of the IRA as terrorists before 11 September,” and added “but now I see where the Brits are coming from.” A republican activist Kevin Fagan, who in his seven years in Boston had switched to drinking Budweiser instead of Guinness, believed that the US Government pressure was Tony Blair’s pay-back for Britain’s military support in Afghanistan. The situation regarding motivations is clearly complex and multi-layered.
The only way that the Boston attack and other similar ones are ever likely to succeed is if the general population stops doing things for fear of unspecified threats. I actually believe that those caught up in events in Boston are likely to be as resilient as members of the UK public were when faced with ongoing IRA threats. I have already read reports that people who have lost limbs are looking ahead to being able to dance again or to complete future Boston Marathons; the human spirit never ceases to amaze me. On the other hand, something else continues to amaze me; a chilling fact to consider alongside the reaction to events in Boston on 15th April – more than 85 people, including 8 children, are killed with guns on average day in US and more than twice that number are injured, and it’s also estimated that, to take one city as an example, in Chicago 20-30% of children have witnessed a school shooting. Given such statistics following on from ongoing mass shootings, I continue to find it extremely difficult to understand the resistance to introducing some form of gun controls – the only logical explanation surely has to be the desire to profit from gun sales.
I ‘treated’ myself to an entry in the Edinburgh Marathon for my 50th birthday – to date, my only marathon – with two years to go until my 60th birthday, I now feel that I have another incentive to aim for a second.

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A WEEKEND OF SPORT

It’s been one of these weeks that managed to get me to think about sport. I’m not a particularly avid follower of any particular teams or sports, but certainly appreciate that it forms a major part in the lives of many. I’m definitely not one to eschew competitive sport, and believe that young children have a lot to gain from active participation – learning about team spirit, fair play, losing, and hopefully also winning occasionally. The week seems to have raised a number of contrasts.

  • During the week Ross County became the first ever football team to work their way up from the Highland League to secure a place in the SPL. I’m a great advocate of the underdog so really wlecomed this news.
  • News started to emerge that the SPL are seeking to change their rules regarding the sanctions that should apply to teams that go into administration – it smacks very much of a desperate attempt to enable Glasgow Rangers to avoid being relegated to the Third Division. Sport should really promote fair play and to me it is just wrong to treat Rangers any differently than previous teams that have gone into administration even if doing so does mean a drop in TV revenue for a few years – it is pretty clear to me that potential TV money has probably been a motivator for the dubious practices that have led to the current situation regarding football finances.
  • Despite some hints that the teams might withdraw from the Bahrain F1 Grand Prix, the latest indications are that they will decide to go ahead having been assured that sufficient security measures will be put in place to protect them. My problem is that the staging of this race will lend a degree of legitimacy to the Bahrain regime, whose conduct with regard to humans rights remains a cause for concern.

Saturday found me being aware of three major events:

  • The first Scottish Cup semi-final of the weekend saw Hibs beat Aberdeen 2-1, my only real contact with this being pre-match chat on Radio Scotland and a few FaceBook postings following the result.
  • The Grand National; prior to this I had wondered if any bookies would be offering odds on the number of horses that would die as a result of their participation – NOT that I wished to place a bet; I just wondered if there was a recognition that there was a high probability of such deaths. I couldn’t find any quotes but sadly my suspicion that two horses would have to be put down turned out to be the outcome (although at the time of writing this a further two horses are still undergoing treatment as a result of their falls). Earlier in the week I had been listening to ‘Call Kaye’ on Radio Scotland when they had been discussing horse welfare in the Grand National, highlighting the fact that thoroughbred horses now are less robust and less able to cope with jumps than those that had raced in National Hunt previously.
  • The Melrose Sevens was played in sun and hail showers; to my mind, a great example of a ‘feel good’ competition where opposing fans can generally engage in healthy rivalry without any real fear that hateful violence will ensue. I was so pleased when local Borders team Jed Forest won through to face Saracens in the final. To borrow a tired football commentator’s cliché, it was a game of two halves – the first half was very exciting as Jed were first to score and retained the lead until the latter stages. Saracens went into half-time with a small lead, sadly the superior fitness of the professional team showed as Saracens dominated the second half, going on to win by a considerable margin of 50 to 21.

Sunday:

  • On waking I decided to give the Chinese Grand Prix a shot; it was interesting and featured a very fluid battle for for third place in the closing stages. It ended with the first race win for Mercedes since the year I was born, and I was fairly surprised to note only one non-finisher, and that due to a wheel change error during a pit stop rather than a racing incident. I will not be making a point to catch all live races covered by the BBC; whilst being an interesting diversion I realised that much of my enjoyment of previous seasons was reliant on fairly detailed knowledge of the intricacies of teams and technical information gained by closely following every race.
  • The second Scottish Cup semi-final saw Glasgow Celtic pitted against Edinburgh’s Heart of Midlothian; not being much of a football fan I still found myself drawn to this match as a win by Hearts would result in an all Edinburgh final. I ended up watching most of the match which did nothing to change my view that it is a fairly uninspiring sport. But I do recognise that many disagree with this opinion and I can appreciate the important part the game plays in Scottish society. The final result pleased me as it did see the Glasgow team being beaten; as a result the final on 19th May will be the first time that the two Edinburgh sides will have met in a Scottish Cup final since 1896. Amusingly, post match coverage on Radio Scotland suggested that the match appears to have been dubbed the ‘salt and sauce’ final, in recognition of the preferred option for fish and chips in the Edinburgh area rather than salt and vinegar.
  • New course records were set during the third Brighton Marathon. Included amongst the runners was Tracey McCarthy, running to raise money and awareness for The L Project. This also served to remind me that next Sunday brings the London Marathon.