Saturday, March 6, 2010

Famous Last Words

The organiser of today’s half marathon, known as the ‘Newton’s Fraction Half Marathon’ doesn’t exactly inspire confidence when he says he’s putting his head above the parapet, admits they haven't got it 100% right in the past and promises ‘the best Fraction yet’. It's not an easy course, he says, but you will enjoy it... famous last words perhaps.

Not sure what the problems were in the past but today dawns cold although sunny and fine with it as well. Initially I go for long trousers but change my mind and have to strip in the car. No one seems to notice or mind or perhaps care.

Today also, I warm up better, in an effort to avoid the sore knees of last week. I do a lap of their running track and plenty of stretches and stuff.

We start and I repeat the same ‘too fast’ first mile of last week, around 7.10 but this time I’m not phased, I’m looking for a 7.20 average. In fact I hold 7.10 for the first five miles which is excellent paced running.

I have a pack of gel to get me through the ordeal. There are five water stops and I have a squirt of gel and a mouthful of water at each, which seems to work ok. L’s drug of choice is ‘sport beans’ one for each mile, although these look just like normal jelly beans, but cost several times the price.

The first of two brutish hills puts pay to my good pace, but then I settle back into 7.20’s before the second hill in the eleventh mile forces a correction to that pace. Then I run the last mile in 7.15. So all is good with the world.

There are sarcastic signs taunting you on these hills, informing you, among other things, that you’ll never get a PB on this course. Well, I may only have one race to compare it with but I intend to get a PB, in fact now I’m determined to get one.

The running track is a welcome sight even though we have to do a lap and a half of it to finish. 600 metres to go the chap says. I want to argue that actually I’m sure it’s more than that, as the first lap is around the outside and is therefore more than 400 metres but I don’t have the breath to do so.

The first twelve men and women get a bottle of Newton's Fraction Ale. No, I don’t get one. Just a red t-shirt, ugh, and no massage. So that’s L’s job sorted for later.

1 hour 36 minutes, that’s two minutes faster than last week. I’m even feeling rather fit afterwards. So roll on next week. I reckon I can do another three miles at 7.20 or so which means I should crack the two hours, just, but we’ll see. In fact everyone is talking about next week and everyone has a pet name for it. The Kill-athon seems a popular one, whilst L sees it as her own personal Kilimanjaro-athon.

The 'worth having' goody bag turns out to be a calorie counters nightmare which means I get L’s as well, so yes, certainly 'worth having'.

In the evening we head out for a few beers and a film. Another of L’s choices, ‘The Lovely Bones’ based on the best selling book by Alice Sebold.

The year is 1973 and on her home from school a young girl, Susie Salmon (Saoirse Ronan), is approached by her neighbour, George Harvey. He persuades her to enter an underground den he has built. Once she enters, he attacks her, kills her and then dismembers her body before bundling it into an old safe. Meanwhile, Susie's spirit goes up into her own personal afterlife, an 'in-between' state between life and death, which looks shockingly like Windows XP world. You know those garish green grass/blue sky images from the default Windows XP backdrop. Either that or it's that hillside that features in the Teletubbies programme. At first, I thought L had sneaked me into ‘Alice in Wonderland’ instead. Except a Tim Burton film is sure to be darker and there's not much dark here.

From up high Susie watches down over the aftermath of her death, like an angel and she doesn’t seem to mind being dead. The Salmon family react as you would expect, at first reluctant to believe in what has happened and then consumed by grief. Meanwhile Harvey is not suspected by the police and gets away with the crime. Jack, Susie's father, isn’t so sure and continually harasses the police about Harvey.

I don’t know the book so I’m probably not in a good position to comment. Although I’ve read a synopsis of it and L has filled me in on details as well. So I was expecting an intricate story and a disturbing one, dealing with difficult issues, but we didn’t get it. In fact we didn’t get much at all. I kept waiting for something to happen but nothing did, for ages. This was not edge of the seat stuff.

Perhaps Peter 'Lord of the Rings' Jackson was the wrong person to be handed the reins to this film. His liking for the visual effects side of film making has been used to full effect and to make room for all that, they’ve had to dispense with the plot, or perhaps all the computer generated stuff is to try and distract you from the fact that somewhere along the line they forgot what the plot was.

The film also has some celebrated actors in it. Rachel Weisz is the distressed mother and Susan Sarandon plays her alcoholic mother. While Mark Wahlberg plays the devastated father well and there is an excellent performance from Stanley Tucci, who is menacing as the murdering neighbour.

There are a few good scenes but not enough of them. Suzie was supposed to be trying to influence things from beyond the grave but there is little of this. It kind of got exciting when Susie's sister Lindsey grew suspicious and finally breaks into Harvey's house where she discovers information that implicates him. He discovers her there but fails to catch her. Then comes an unbelievable scene where she takes an age to hand the information over to her family, as if it wasn’t that important after all. In the meantime, Harvey, knowing the game is up, disappears. Although he eventually gets his comeuppance when he is killed by an icicle...

It’s a very empty film and an incoherent one, which perhaps thinks it’s a murder mystery but a poor one at that. The murder is after all revealed early on but we still get the suspicion that, that is what the film is all about. It has no flow at all and it’s hard to see who the finished product is aimed out. Perhaps they asked Jackson to Disney-fy the story but how can you do that to a story about a girl who has being attacked and murdered.

I get home and switch the computer on. In my inbox are both race results, this weeks and last weeks. So that’s very quick from Grantham, very slow from Sleaford.

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