Couch to #E1Run – The Story So Far… – #GetOutside @Pledgesports @OrdnanceSurvey @TrailRunningMag

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I decided that I should put some words down to explain a few things.  Why is it I keep saying ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things?

Some already know my journey to this point…  Preparing to run the length of Europe, self supported, but others are new to the journey so it seems right to share the story and explain why I really do believe that anyone can do what I do and that I am in no way anything other than ordinary.  I have no special gifts and seek recognition for any form of prowess.  I simply try to inspire others through the simple act of being nothing other than ordinary.  So here it is…  The beginning and story so far…

My lungs burn, my muscles scream at me to stop and I feel like I’m fighting gravity and the ground with each step.  BEEP!

That’s my signal to stop.  I double over, feeling sick, out of breath and head spinning from the exertion.  “How on Earth am I going to do another 7 of these??”

Truth is, I’d jogged…  I hate this term!  I’d ran for no more than 30s and I was already feeling like death!  “Why on Earth would anyone do this for fun?”

The odd thing is that the C25K app I downloaded quickly changed to the 10k version, then the half marathon and finally the marathon version, something I never thought I would describe when talking about my past, present and future!!

This was July 2102 and the start of a year which led me close to (and I admit this with great reluctance and a the bitter taste of what I experienced) taking my own life on several occasions, only to turn to running for a moments escape from the bitterness that I felt.  The thing is, I am now living in a way I need thought possible, never imagined I would be capable of and that seems to have allowed me to let go of so much anger, pain and blame.

I was unfit, I was overweight, the world I’d created for myself and the dreams I’d nurtured were falling apart around me and although I didn’t know it at the time, I was taking slow and deliberate step into the pit of depression, unable to stop myself and unaware of what was happening to those I cared for.  The result was living along in a flat, in a town where I knew few people and having to live off £80 a week.  Those were dark times, but my decisions had led me there and I refused (I refuse to this day) to change my decisions and all the way through I continued to run, discovered the joy of running in the Peak District and developed a love for the peace and clarity it gave me.

All the while I research running.  It felt instinctively wrong.  I was fighting the ground, I was putting in lots of effort for little gains in speed, giving me the sensation of being inefficient, until I chanced on the concept of barefoot running and correct running form.  It all made perfect sense!  Each step was a use of energy and if we run poorly, we need more energy to sustain that particular motion forwards.  I began to change my running.  My running began to change me.  I skipped the marathon distance, and with 20 miles of run walking I entered a 50 miles ultra!

3 weeks I trained for it.  I finished.  I didn’t understand how, but I finished.

The switch had been flicked and now I was looking for challenges, running the same hill rep 652 times back to back, covering 75 miles and gaining the same amount of ascent as Mt Fuji was the start of running barefoot from Land’s End to John O’Groats, which became the catalyst to preparing to run the 4750 mile long E1 trail.

The point is simple…

It takes little more than persistence to change our view point from ‘Running Sucks” to “Love to run”, no more.  It’s the same principle with any thing we can’t do and find challenging, but we are all made to take on these challenges if we can just remove the blinkers that we self apply through our pursuit of comfort and ease.

Ordinary people can achieve extraordinary things.

Join the support and pledge for adventure -> #E1Run

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Running, Anger & Annoyance – Are They An Inevitable Link For Improvement Of Self?

  
These thoughts are unformed, the initial threads of a new line of thinking and just the musings of someone who has realised or thinks they have realised something.

Running and pushing has at some point dissociated form anger and annoyance.

In fact, should we run or train using anger and annoyance as a driving force?  Are they beneficial sides to be used or are they the path to disappointment and maybe even injury?

Surely it is better to run at peace, pushing when you feel it is needed, being happy with the outcome of choosing not to push hard and realising that you really can’t fight with yourself.      Is it that anger and annoyance masks the sense that you aren’t at one with yourself or is it a way of focusing on the push?

I have used anger to drive me forwards when others and myself felt that the early end of a journey is inevitable, but it never felt as fulfilling as just pushing because I knew I could.  Is it the fact that I know I can push harder if needed, that I know the dark voice of doubt is actually my analysis of a situation and a tool that shows the way to proceed as apposed to showing how not to proceed?

Rambling on as I am, I have just one question….

Do you use anger and annoyance to find something that wasn’t there before when pushing yourself to your limits?

Sleep Deprived Musings Of An Ultra Runner

As teachers, we encourage reflective thought in our students.  We are encouraged to be reflective practitioners with our teaching and continually review, refresh or improve out practice.

The weekends adventures (all be it, joining and supporting someone else’s adventure), and the looming start of my challenge (26th of July) has given me some time to think.  A couple of things kept cropping up during the run in random conversations.

1.  People don’t understand why

This is a common thing said by fell and ultra runners.  People find it difficult to comprehend the reason behind what we do as runners.  The distances are hard to comprehend, the lack of sleep, need for food and the persistent forward motion are also tricky to grasp.  Why would someone give up comforts for such a mundane activity?

I’ve thought long and hard about this, not being happy with the “if you are asking you won’t understand” response.  It seems (for me anyway) to stem from a love of the elegance of it all.  To be able to navigate through empty landscapes, cross vast expanses of land and scale mountains with an air of effortlessness, is just simply put, graceful.  There is something of the greek myths and legends about the people who take on these journeys, were even failure to complete a challenge becomes a victory in itself.  Simply completing one of these endurance challenges wouldn’t be enough for someone to understand the reasons why for one simple reason…

The reasons why is ephemeral, and shifts.  What begins as a way of digging yourself out of a dark hole changes into a myriad of colourful reasons, with only one common theme.  A persistent drive to move forwards.  It seems for me the only common theme to my reasons for  taking on these challenges is seeking a simplicity in my existence.  A way to constantly redirect those inner demons that slow my development as a person.

2.  What are you running from?

Often disguised as the question ‘why do you run?’ or “why did you start running?”, the question is still the same.  What is it that you run away from?

The reasons are personal, but they seem to be variations on a theme.  Most people run because they realise that they aren’t happy with themselves, whether it is their weight or bad habits.  I started running to overcome a low point, where happiness was something fleeting, but now I simply run to be.  Not to see if I can run further, not to hide problems that I don’t want to acknowledge and not to prove a point or seek some ego boosting prestige.  Running tends to bring with it a sense of freedom and a sense that you are in fact being your true self.  Clarity in thought, responding to your bodies needs, moving with the landscape as apposed to fighting it and experiencing the moment.  In fact, the moment itself seems to stop having the same meaning.  I find it shifts in length, at times being short and others stretching out as though it could be infinitely long.  Despite this chaotic nature, one thing brings it all together.  The sense of nothingness that engulfs me.  Not a nothingness where I seize to exist, but more an indifference to the normal demands on a person, where you can just be.  I’ve struggled to put this feeling in to words, and I still find it difficult to do so.  All I can say is this….  it is the one mental place, were it is possible to truly acknowledge who you really are and measure your value and significance.  Realising that we are but a tiny blip in time is somewhat scary and to many sounds a little depressing but its this feeling that brings a smile to my face every time, regardless of the pain or tiredness Im feeling.

It should be interesting to see whether my thinking shifts, or whether I discover anything new about myself.  Long endurance challenges are said to be the perfect arenas to see what we are made of and to test our limits.  I have even heard ultra running legends say that they reveal a person for who they really are.  Right now I have just two desires in terms of the challenge…  To complete it successfully and not disappoint those that have given their support and to allow the selfishness of the whole adventure do some good for others who are less fortunate.

So…  after that long and rambling piece of philosophical thinking, why do you run?

Self Perpetuating Motivational Device

In all the training, organising potential sponsorship, contacting people regarding potential talks post run and getting the equipment sorted, I completely forgot that there is a Land’s End to John O’Groats Association.  This is what their site says about becoming a member:

“Anyone who has completed the journey From Land’s End to John o’ Groats in either direction, by whatever means of transport is eligible for membership of the Association.  You will have to have completed your trip as a single journey no matter how long that takes and you will be asked to provide evidence of a properly completed trip which could be in the form of a diary or log book with signatures from anyone who has witnessed your trip.  Many places, garages, post offices etc have a date stamp and will be happy to stamp and sign your log.  Other acceptable forms are accommodation receipts or similar which show where you were at any particular time and date.” 

The idea of carrying a small book that is then stamped, signed or is used to collect some kind sign of my passing is really appealing.  One of my favourite pieces of art is by the artist On kawara.  He went on a journey and would send a postcard home that simply said “I am still alive”.  Without getting deep and philosophical he was questioning his own existence.

So here’s what I plan on doing.

I’m going to purchase one of my favourite makes of notebooks, a Moleskine.  On the 26th of July, in the Early hours of a Sunday morning, I’m going to carry this small book and along the journey I’m going to collect items that I can store in this little book, and for each item title them with the date and time.  It is a little arty I guess, but as a personal piece of memorabilia, it’s going to priceless.

It’s the little things that cause out memories to jolt into action and let us relive moments in the past, so this is going to be my little memory jogger, and it’ll give a second goal to focus on whilst moving persistently forward.

I guess that’s what this post is about….

I’ve found a way of redirecting my focus at times when I will be low and struggling.  The book really can’t go unfinished!

I’ve already planned one or two of the Scottish pages.  They will be filled with the daed bodies of midges 😉

Stepping Out Of The Suck

3:45am and the alarm sets off.  I awake to the sound of music, but motivation is distinctly lacking.  It’s windy, rainy, cold and I’m up before the sun!

Sometimes you just have to embrace the internal dulldrum and step out, and small things provide just enough of a nudge to get you moving.  This morning I’m glad I did for two reasons…

 

Reason 1 – Rain doesn’t always suck

  

Reason 2 – Even a dull field is interesting with magnificent skies


Have great Tuesday!