A year of running

I am not sure exactly when I became a runner, nor for how long I will be one. But I am sure that when I think back over 2023 from a personal point of view, running is the first thing I think about.

Pic courtesy of Microsoft Paint Cocreator AI

Most of us discover the need for exercise at some point in our lives and for years I have been in the habit of doing a short daily workout, hardly even a workout, but based on the old 5BX plan which takes all of 11 minutes. 5BX includes running on the spot which is effective but quite boring. I replaced it with going out for an actual short run and omitting the jumping jacks.

Then a couple of things conspired to persuade me to do more running. It was partly a side-effect of lockdown, when my wife who was on furlough did the NHS Couch to 5K programme which was followed by an addiction to Parkrun, free 5K runs which take place every Saturday morning at numerous locations around the UK and some worldwide.

Second, an event called the Winchester Half Marathon passes our house and I found myself thinking that I would like to do it myself.

I decided that I might as well join in with the Parkrun and soon enjoyed the challenge of trying to improve my time week by week. That began in July 2022.

I was enjoying it enough that in April 2023 I booked myself into the Winchester Half for September. That gave me 6 months to train, more than enough. I increased my daily run to a 15 minute hilly run three times round the block near my home. I started doing a long run on Sunday mornings, working up from 8K to 10K to 12K and up to 20K, just short of the half marathon distance.

The Winchester Half is somewhat hilly so I booked for the flatter New Forest Half Marathon earlier in September as a practice. That went OK despite rain and I finished in 2:03:50. Winchester went a bit better and I did 1:58:27. Ambition fulfilled.

I was enjoying it too much to give up though, and since then have joined the local Winchester Running Club and booked for several more events next year. I also did the AWS re:Invent 5k in Las Vegas which was fun if a little odd in the way it was organized!

I have started running relatively late in life and wish I had done it earlier; but it is also fun to do something new. Often I meet people who tell me they also loved to run but had to stop due to injury, sometimes knees, sometimes something else. I do not think running is risk-free but I am convinced that it is more likely to do good than harm. I have just read Daniel Lieberman’s book Exercised; Lieberman is a professor of biological sciences and writes that “the negative effects of too much exercise appear to be ridiculously less than the negative effects of too little.”

Even the risk to knees is not clear-cut. “Physical activities like running that load joints repeatedly and heavily do not cause higher rates of osteoarthritis and may sometimes be protective,” writes Lieberman, referencing a 2008 study in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

There are consequences though. I have lost weight. My resting heart rate has slowed. And it is time-consuming, especially if one trains for the longer distances.

I realise though that I may not always be able to run. That for me is all the more reason to run while I can.

The era of tiny PCs: 400g and smaller than a paperback book

My work PC for the last few years has been a 2018 HP Omen gaming PC which has been brilliant; I have replaced the GPU and added storage but everything still works fine. That is, it used to be, until I reviewed a mini PC which has surprised me with its capability – not because it is exceptional, but because everyday technology is at the point where having something bigger is unnecessary for everyday purposes other than gaming.

Mini PC with paperback book and CD to show the size

The new PC is a Trigkey S5 with an AMD Ryzen 5560 CPU, 500GB NVMe SSD and 16GB DDR4 RAM, and currently costs around £320. Its Geekbench CPU score is better than my 5-year old HP with a Core i7.

GPU score is way less than the old HP.

Still, there is support for three displays via HDMI, DisplayPort and USB-C and 4K/60Hz is no problem.

Inside we find branded RAM and it does not look as if the components are shoe-horned in, there is plenty of space.

The power supply is external and rated at 19v and 64.98w.

Expansion is via 4 USB-A ports, one USB-C, and the aforementioned HDMI and DisplayPort sockets. There is also an Ethernet port, and of course Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

Operating system? Interesting. It is not mentioned in the blurb but Windows 11 happens to be installed, but with one of those volume MAK (Multiple Activation Key) licenses that is not suitable for this kind of distribution (but costs the vendor hardly anything). When first run Windows setup states that “you may not use this software if you have not validly acquired a license for the software from Microsoft or its licensed distributors,” which you likely have not, but Trigkey may presume that most of its customers will not care. I recommend installing your own licensed copy of Windows as I have done, or your preferred Linux distribution.

Windows does run well however and 16GB RAM is enough for Hyper-V and Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) 2.0 to run well. Visual Studio 2022, VS Code, Microsoft Office, all run fine.

I am not suggesting that this particular model is the one to get, but I do think that something like this, small, light, and power-sipping, is now the sane choice for most desktop PC users.

The AWS re:Invent 5K run 2023

Sunrise over Las Vegas – at the re:Invent 5K run 2023

It happens that, a little later in life than most, I have taken up running, and during the recent AWS re:Invent in Las Vegas I was one of 978 attendees to take part in the official event 5K run.

If there were around 50,000 at the conference that would be nearly 2% of us which is not bad considering the first coaches to the venue left our hotel at 5.15am. The idea was that you could do the run and still make the keynote I guess – which I did.

I would not call myself an experienced runner but I have taken part in a few races and this one seemed to have all the trimmings. The run was up and down Frank Sinatra Drive, which was closed for the event, and the start and finish was at the Michelob ULTRA Arena at Mandalay Bay. Snacks and drinks were available; there was a warm-up; there was a bag drop; there was a guy who kept up an enthusiastic commentary both for the start and the finish. The race was chip timed.

We started in three waves, being fast-ish, medium, and run/walk. I started perhaps optimistically in the fast-ish group and did what for me was a decent time; it was a quick course with the only real impediments being two u-turns at the ends of the loop.

Overall a lot of fun and I am grateful to the organisers for arranging it (it does seem to be a regular re:Invent feature).

Here is where it gets a bit odd though. The event is pushed quite hard; it is a big focus at the community stand outside the registration/swag hall and elsewhere at the other official re:Invent hotels. It is also a charity event, supporting the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. All good; but I was surprised never to be officially told my result.

I was curious about it and eventually tracked down the results – I figured that with chip timing they were probably posted somewhere – and yes, here they are. You will notice though that no names are included, only the bib numbers. If you know your bib number you can look up your time. This was mine.

It seems that AWS do not really publish the results which would have disappointed me if I had been the first finisher who achieved an excellent time of 16:23 – well done 1116!

I can’t pretend to understand why one would organise a chip-timed race but then not publish the results. Perhaps in the interests of inclusivity one could give people an option to be anonymous but for most runners the time achieved is part of the fun. I think we were meant to be emailed our results but mine never came; but even if I had received an email, I would like to browse through the full table and see how I did overall.