Tuesday, 10 February 2015

What's it all about?

I started writing this blog back in August 2012, primarily as a way of recording my thoughts and experiences as I trained for the 2013 West Highland Way race. I found it quite cathartic to turn my random jumble of thoughts and experiences into words on paper, or screen for the more pedantic reader. Perhaps when my running days are done, I can look back and say “Oh, I remember that”. Or maybe some aspiring WHW runner will read my thoughts and be dazzled by my wisdom, wit and erudition.

I've never made or aspired to any claims of literary ability, only narrowly scraping a C pass in Higher English. I spent 5 years producing essays which mostly ended “…and then I woke up, it had all been a dream”, how my teachers must have dreaded reading and marking another badly written and grammatically bereft effort. If you want well written or inspirational blogs then I’d suggest Rhona; Amanda or Fiona’s superb efforts.

At university I wrote a 10,000 word Geography essay on the topic of fog. I managed to get slightly carried away. You’d be surprised how many different types of fog there are and how much you can actually write about them. I put a huge amount of effort and time into this essay, and convinced myself that my Magnum Opus, would surely be the best in my class and perhaps steer me towards one of the more minor scientific or literary awards.

Came the great day our Professor handed out the marked essays one by one, in no strict order but with a small narrative commentary on each effort “well done Miss Baxter, well researched if a trifle short”, “somewhat lacking in source references Mr Davis” etc. no such problems for Ainslie as I knew in those pre word processing days that I’d smashed well through 10,000 words and had more sources than a Glasgow drug dealer. As the number of essays to be returned dwindled to one, I actually convinced myself that my magnificent effort must be being held back to single me out for particular praise…..no seriously I really did think that.

Whilst his exact words escape me, the broad searing content never has. “Mr Ainslie was asked to produce a 10,000 word essay, he has in fact written over 13,000”, I’d missed or ignored the not so small print in the brief saying you’d be penalised for every 100 words over the 10,000. Oh dear, but never mind, the clarity and sheer in depth brilliance of the content would counter any minor quantitative issues, I thought I’d blown the Nobel, but the class prize was sill surely mine.

“Mr Ainslie work is split into 98 paragraphs, but he has cunningly only managed to use a total of 300 sentences. He has however used 248 semi colons and 147 colons” (I’m not claiming to remember exact numbers, but I suspect you’re getting the gist). Unfortunately I was getting the gist too and a creeping sensation that perhaps the class prize was slipping too.

The Professor went on relentlessly; I’d written an essay covering several different types of fog, completely failing to read the brief about choosing only one type of fog. Perhaps that’s why I’d found such an abundance of material. “Mr Ainslie has made 431 spelling mistakes”, oh shit, oh shit I’m now acutely aware of my own rising colour and the pitiless stares of my fellow undergraduates, all happy that some other poor sod is in the firing line, not them.

He didn't raise his voice, merely talked on relentlessly dismantling my efforts, with every sentence further settling my doom. Reaching his crescendo of humiliation he handed me back my essay, covered in red ink corrections and scrawl, yes he had actually counted all those spelling and grammar errors.
“Mr Ainslie has scored 7%”….yes you read that right, not 100%, not 77% just seven percent. I could have died, I would have paid money for the floor to open and swallow me such was the embarrassment I was feeling.

So what is the point of all the above?

I read recently that unless your blog has a purpose it will never be successful, for the first year I had a very definite purpose, namely the West Highland Way race, but what about now?

I certainly have an occasional problem with writing focus. As witnessed above I set out to examine and clarify why I blog and end up telling the world about my 2nd year university humiliation.

I've re-read some of my race reports and they are often of the “I did this……then I did that…then I overtook the fat bloke in blue” variety. Not much interest to many people I suspect and sometimes straying over the line into the disliked “see how good I am” genre.

I often find it very difficult to write about something or more specifically to find something of interest to the wider world and I’m not talking about writers block here. I can have a brilliant training run round spectacular forests with great mates, but when it comes to committing to paper it’s basically “Went for a run, great company, lots of banter, felt good.. the End”, not exactly a page turner. 

Whilst there are excellent running blogs that go into great detail about routes, splits, paces etc. that’s not for me. 
I have thought about doing kit reviews, but since I’m a creature of habit I suspect I’d be less than objective. OMM kit is great, Garmin 910xt is the mutts nuts and Salomon Speedcross 3’s are brilliant, just buy them.

I’m forced to confront the gnawing truth that my blog may not actually have a purpose!
But wait a minute; I’m not seriously writing this to achieve literary stardom (I refer you to the fog essay) or wealth. I’m not expecting to have people stop me in the street and say “Oh you’re Keith Ainslie, I've read your blog”, although bizarrely this did actually happen to me in a restaurant toilet in Fort William.

I guess I've reached the conclusion that I actually don’t have a single purpose in blogging, It’s a diary for me; It might help fellow runners avoid some of the mistakes I've made; it might help promote races and places I enjoy, but I suppose I’m principally doing it because I enjoy it.

In conclusion I’m going to keep blogging even if fame and fortune continue to elude me.

Just in case you’re wondering about the fog essay? You will not be surprised to hear that my Geography studies ended in year two. Year three was spent on Topographic Science (map making and surveying) which consisted mostly of trailing around Kelvingrove Park with outdated surveying equipment or deciding which colour of pencil to use to colour in a map.

Now where are my coloured pencils when I need them?


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