Endings and new beginnings

27th October

It is that time of year the move from autumn to winter, late October. The tennis season tailing off and time to reconnect with off court fitness.

This called for a new pair of running shoes. While pretty set on the Brooks Glycerin model that have served me well these past 12 months or so, there was the question of which colour. From the seven colour options there were four still available in my size. Eventually and I mean eventually after several days of musing and with a little advice from a younger member of the family, the Brooks Glycerin version 19 in limited edition grey / black with bright yellow sole and laces was ordered. Click to purchase and wait in anticipation. This top of the range cushioned shoe is perfect for heavier, less flexible runners, helping to take the shock out of those heavily planted feet.

The delivery arrived mid afternoon Wednesday in an oversized box within which the shoes in their own box were safely nestling. I suppose on the verge of COP2026 in Glasgow, its good that its mainly cardboard and not delivered in  a plastic bag. The shoes themselves are nestling in their own beautifully presented box, which on opening reveals them wrapped gently in a light brown wrapping type paper with little Brooks logos on. They are a thing of beauty.  I lift one shoe gently from the box and look at it from all angles, turning it over in my hands. It looks perfect,  and I place it gently on the desk in front of me. Then I check out the other shoe in similar fashion before placing them as a pair in front of me. The attention to detail and precision of manufacture is stunning.

There is one more test, that always creates a little nervousness, it’s when things arrive by delivery. Do they fit? They should of course as they are the same size as last year’s same shoe. Still you never know until they are on your feet. Each foot slides effortlessly in turn into its shoe and I lace them lightly, before taking them for a walk. I announce the perfection and beauty of the shoe to the assembled family members in the kitchen. The dogs each open an eye and then close them again, concluding rightly that my appearance means neither food nor walkies. Others look almost in sympathy and afford me a cursory glance somewhere in the region of my feet but without the passion deserving of these beautiful shoes. How great it would be if they were to say “come here let me take a closer look” and ” go on take one off let me see and feel the perfection of those great shoes”. Of course that does not happen. Don’t worry shoes they will notice you, wait until they see the debit in the bank statement!

I suppose if I purchased lots of things all the time this would be a less special moment, as it is my needs are occasional and purchases are infrequent. At least on budget day, I am helping to get the economy moving again.

For the next couple of days I am able to get mentions of the new shoes into a couple of conversations, almost naturally. The responses tell me this is a personal thing and I guess no one else ever feels this way over a pair of running shoes or at least over someone else’s running shoes. Maybe I should talk to runners and not tennis players and then the reaction I think would be different.

The next natural thing to do would of course be to go for a run. Of course I now have a cold, wouldn’t you just know it!

Wait my beauties, your time will come. We will explore the mud, the rain and the wind together these next few months!

30th October

The cold that has been developing this week is annoyingly filling my head, dulling the senses, clogging the sinuses. Such has been the avoidance of others, social distancing, mask wearing and not shaking hands on the tennis court, that I have been without a cold since before the first lockdown. Now we’re shaking hands routinely at the net. After a few weeks of hesitation, some racket tapping, some knuckle touching and now full on handshakes, I have a cold for my  moment of conformity. At least it is only  a cold and not Covid, according to my test. Think I will test again today just to be sure.

Yesterday we watched Emma Raducanu losing in the second round of the Transylvanian open to Marta Kostyuk. Emma was well beaten, although there were moments of brilliance, plus many uncharacteristic errors and her opponent was much more on her game. The commentators noted the relative lack of energy coming from Raducanu and how she slumped on her seat at the change of ends. Though you could see her trying to work things out trying to find a way, this was not to be her day. Within seconds of the final point, racket back into bag, the court is vacated to leave the stage for the victor.

“I knew it was going to be tough,” Raducanu said. “I wasn’t physically feeling 100 per cent and was quite tired and lethargic today. Sometimes you have days where you don’t feel your best.”

In a strange way it is reassuring to see that even the best have off days. Perhaps so early in her career it is easier to see this with Raducanu and she will develop further tactical refinement to cope better with such days in the future. I can emphasise many is the time I have felt that the match is running away from me and tried to change something to alter the flow of a match without success.

It is really hard mid match to have objective analysis while at the same time playing the points. Or at least it is to me. Something to take forward for the emerging winter training programme.

The weather is atrocious, strong winds and lashing rain. Add one headcold and a virtually empty tennis diary and that road to the sunny uplands of improved performance seems a long way away today. Comfy on the sofa, such moments also invite cake, sweets and chunky slices of bread and butter to fill the spaces between meals. I winced at the thought of what the weighing scales might say this week, so gave the routine once a week weigh in a miss. That’s the third week in a row I have passed on that opportunity!

Just the moment to sketch out my plans. I know without action that January will sneak around with alarming speed – I mean people already have their Christmas decorations up. And January is too late to begin preparations for next season if I want to build on this year’s progress.

A plan is starting to gel in my head like the edge pieces of a jigsaw and over this weekend I intend to colour in the detail, then we begin again. Start the build up to the 2022 season on Monday 1st November 2021.

31st October

There is nothing about this day, of strong winds, rain and the days getting shorter, that says this is a time to start the build up to the next tennis season. Nothing at all.

It has to come from within.

This is no longer a season tailing off, tomorrow it’s a new season just beginning.

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