Go nocturnal! Run London! <br /><br />Nike’s relentless cheerfulness about their Run London events is infectious. The promotional material looks so good. It’s all fun and smiles and you start to think about lots of happy people working out together, loving the fresh (ha – it’s London – fooled you) air and eating sensibly and you think “Yes, I want some of that”.<br /><br />For just �25 you get: A GoNocturnalRunLondon t-shirt (worth �30 – you’re quids-in already!). And 10% off any running kit in the month or so leading up to the race. And you get to be part of it. Take part! Do it! Don’t be so lazy! Give us the money!<br /><br />So you do. Or, at least, I did. As did several others. 30,000, in fact. That’s �750,000 straight to the corporate Mammon that is Nike. OK, so they have to put the race on, which must cost a bit. They have to close the roads, pay for stewarding and staff, promote and generally sort it all out. But let’s not be fooled by that t-shirt you get “free”. It costs them next to nothing. And another thing. It is NOT fashionwear. We were given the brightest neon day-glo yellow item. Horrid, just horrid. Never wear that again. It went straight in the bin after the race.<br /><br />The start was simply awful. Imagine shuffling about in a wet car park on a November evening with 6,000 other people while on a stage two utter morons “miked-up” and wearing black Nike top-to-toe plus some dappy girl jump about shouting at you to keep warm to shitty dance music. “Let’s clap those hands. Knee’s up! This side, shout YEAH!”. Christ. The crowd drift about, looking for leadership. It feels like we are about to be borded onto trains and shunted off to hell. We are all branded, after all.<br /><br />Finally, when the run starts after going through several holding areas, it feels like a prison break. Run away! Thousands of yellow lemmings dashing towards a cliff. 1k goes by in a flash. 2, 3, no problem. Near Tower Bridge they pump out music which lift the spirits. Or it could, if they weren’t playing Oasis – a band that really have that fitness ethos. Fags and booze, anyone? Then they play Radiohead. I love Radiohead, but it’s hardly workout music, now, is it? <br /><br />7, 8, and 9 Ks are fine. Then it’s the finish straight. Over the line, and… oh. We all seem to be standing in a dark, muddy field with no direction. No-one knows where to go. I find myself in the obligatory foil nappy with a tacky medal around my neck. There are some burger stalls in the distance, but I think those are for the spectators (or the lazy fat people, whichever you prefer). There are two people in a feeble protest holding signs: “Nike Sweat-shop run”. <br /><br />The signs to the tube are terrible. It’s as if after giving you all the help in the world to get you on this damn run, Nike want you to get utterly lost and demotivated. Go home. No foil nappies on the tube. See you next year. On the tube, a man asks “So, which charity was the run for?”. A woman looks back at him. “It wasn’t for charity. It was for Nike.” I could feel the shame.
Lots of cliches will be thrown about after another close loss – brave hearts, 15 heros etc. Just in case you missed it, they just lost by a point to New Zealand after a 2 point loss last week to South Africa. Sure, it’s gutting, but the lesson is that to win matches like this, you need that killer instict and belief to finish the job off. England had it in the World Cup final. Wales had the chance with a lineout close to the NZ line with minutes left. And they couldn’t do it. <br /><br />Worryingly, in the post-match interview, Colin Charvis used the phrase “bounce-backability”. Twice. Someone really should stop this kind of sporting linguisitc barbarism.<br /><br />England, however, seem to have it back. Beating the boks by 32 to 16 was huge, not least as SA wanted to get the tour back on track after losing to Ireland. But England played with a pace and intensity that has been lacking for the last 10 months. Martin Corry looked like the modern #8, and with Lewis Moody and Joe Worsley in form the Back-Hill-Dallaglio vacancies are getting filled. And Hodgson was very good. This bodes well for the next world cup. We have young players who are learning how to win against the big nations.
Let’s leave England’s walloping of Canada to one side – it was a nice way to introduce some new caps to the side – and focus on the other big internationals from this weekend.<br /><br />Ireland have rightly grabbed the headlines with the excellent victory over South Africa, a win that really should put them up in the world-force category. No more should we talk of Ireland in that plucky-boys-like-a-beer-odd-victory-now-and-then patronising way. They are a big bet for the 6 Nations. <br /><br />But another match that sneaked in without much hullabaloo was France-Australia. Given the words before the Ire-SA game, fair enough. But France basically stuffed the Aussies. 27-14 is a big margin. Plus, France don’t have a good recent record against Australia. This is a big, big win. <br /><br />With the World Cup having gone North, the big Southern 3 like to claim that they are still the business. New Zealand, for one, are always bleating about being the best team in the world, but without the trophy to back it up. Well, with weekends like this, the balance of rubgy power seems to have shifted. England need to do their part next weekend.<br /><br />If only Italy had beaten New Zealand…
At times like these, when the electoral process goes to shit and neo-cons rule the earth, it’s time to give yourself a little lift and focus on the more frivolous things in life. Like sport.<br /><br />However, things seem fairly bleak at the moment. It’s all managerial merry-go-rounds, players on coke, meaningless champions league games and tennis is fizzling badly. The run to the masters year end final has been pretty dull. Perhaps the autumn rugby internationals will give us something to get stuck into.<br /><br />The interesting story is South Africa. Their team has changed massively in the last year, going from bully-boy thugs to a proper team in no time at all. Credit to the coach, Jake White. If his team can do the hoome nations clean sweep, it will be a big achievement. I almost hope they do. England will be on a hiding to nothing if they don’t get it right.<br /><br />On another note, my first visit to Highbury last weekend was an interesting experience. For a team of Arsenal’s stature, the ground is just tiny. No wonder they are moving. But I worry that the new ground might have the Wembley effect on the team. When Arsenal tried playing their Champions League games at Wembley, they lost most of the time. Unless the Ashburton Grove ground gets the atmostphere going and the players can connect to the fans like they clearly do now, Arsenal could suffer new stadium syndrome. Southampton had it, Man City had it. Don’t bet on the gunners getting the 2006 title.