Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Winter Solstice

I was woken this morning by a text from my brother. It read ‘Get up, get up…Best day of the year! Uphill from here :-)’. The funniest thing about this message is that if I had woken first lil bro would have been receiving a similar text from me.

And why is this day so special? Well, in a sort of glass half full optimism, the shortest day of the year offers hope and motivation to us poor athletes who have to contend with dark evenings when it comes to planning training for the winter months. If we can make it to 21st December, well everything gets better from there on. Training in the city means that the roads are the only option on the dark evenings, but in the country it’s even worse. Come 5pm if you haven’t got your training done, you aren’t going to get it done, well not outdoors anyway! We don’t have the luxury of streetlights where I live, and while the dark starry sky has a certain degree of romance about it, it’s not the best for training.

And so, from Midsummer’s day each year we dread the onset of the long nights, and once we’ve made it to 21st December we know that we’ve survived another winter. Of course I’ve cheated somewhat this year given that I was in Africa until 22nd November, but maybe I can find somewhere to get to in February to balance things up again.

Last year 21st December held a special significance to me, as it was on that day that I decided to pack it all in and set out on this wonderful adventure. This year things were somewhat quieter. It did snow though, and I made another attempt at perfecting the faceplant. Slipping on some snow and ice I banged my knee pretty badly on the way down, and scratched my leg similar to what I did in Mammoth Lakes earlier in the year. I even managed to get the marks running parallel to the scars from the last time. I guess if you’re going to do something, you might as well do it right. I’m pretty sure the scratches will heal, but I’m not so sure about the third knee that I’ve developed.

Concluding the December 21st chat, lets spare a thought for the poor sods that waited years for their turn to witness the sun shine into the chamber at Newgrange, only to be disappointed by the grey snowy skies. Not only did they have to endure the cold, but they didn’t even get a flicker of light into the ancient time-machine to make it worth either the wait or the journey. Better luck next time!

1 comment:

  1. For those of you who are not fully updated on ancient Irish History, Newgrange is an ancient temple of astrological, spiritual, religious and ceremonial importance that was built in Co. Meath over 5,000 years ago. It is older than Stonehenge and the Pyramids of Egypt, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is a large kidney shaped mound covering an area of over one acre. The 19 metre inner passage leads to a cruciform chamber with a corbelled roof.

    Newgrange is best known for the illumination of its passage and chamber by the winter solstice sun. Above the entrance to the passage at Newgrange there is an opening called a roof-box. This opening allows sunlight to penetrate the chamber on the shortest days of the year. At dawn, from December 19th to 23rd, a narrow beam of light penetrates the roof-box and reaches the floor of the chamber, gradually extending to the rear of the chamber. As the sun rises higher, the beam widens within the chamber so that the whole room becomes dramatically illuminated. This event lasts for 17 minutes, beginning around 9am.

    So great is the demand to be one of the few inside the chamber during the solstice that there is a free annual lottery for spaces.