Day 28 – The Nature Of Endurance

I’m no expert, and the words below are likely the result of dehydration, malnutrition and a distinct lack of sleep.

I rambled about this in an earlier post but yesterday, feeling oddly ill and making my way (at a slower than slow pace) to Bellingham I seemed to have had a moment.

The nature of endurance and the drive to move forwards is somehqta schizophrenic.  I’m not making light of the condition in anyway however.

When those difficult moments hit, there is a part of a persons mind that says “Stop! You don’t have to go any further”

This is true of my situation as I have everything needed to stop at any moment and be comfortable for a day or so.  But here’s the paradoxical bit.  I don’t seem to stop.  There’s another part that seems to reply “I know.  Still gonna keep going till I reach….”

The two different personalities jostle for dominance and really, it seems that at the core of it, endurance is an unwillingness to listen to the part of the mind that says “stop”.

Today, many people will endure lots of hardships and they will do it because it is in our nature as humans, but only if we allow it and encourage its flurishing in the young people we interact with.


Day 22 & 23 – Thoughts Whilst Crossing The Moor

We all have that dark part of us that we hide and in doing so we hide from it.  We teeter on its edges, occasionally moving just beyond its horizons, but we avoid it at all costs.  We stare into the abyss and nothing but dread stares back.

Yet, at some point I made the conscious decision to go in.  It is easier to be in a dark place and stare up at the light than it is to stand out of reach of the dark and wander what demons lurk within.

Gradually, this dark place began to fill with light.  Where once there were undefined shapes of forbidding, there now stands figures of encouraging challenge.  The way out is easy to find, no longer a distant star, but more a beaming beacon.  The euphoria of reaching a stop point was simply the realisation that it is possible to sink lower than you imagined and then rise out.  I am no longer ashamed or fearful of this dark place. 

It is easier to crawl out of the pit of despair than it is to avoid falling in.  

Pasta meal curtosy of Bob from The Outdoor Station.

Natural Born Heroes Review – Kind Of!

Claire, the editor of Trail Running magazine was kind enough to send me a copy of Christopher McDougall’s new book, ‘Natural Born Heroes’ a few weeks back.  The story is based around the adventures of several World War II heroes, working to thwart Nazi progress on the island of Crete, but that’s all I’ll say about the story.  I’m not really qualified to review a piece of literature, so if you enjoy a good story, and don’t mind some simplified scientific ideas, then grab it, read it and just enjoy it. 

Having said that, I’ve slowly trundled my way through it, enjoying the story unfold and even more importantly picking out the nuggets of wisdom that are hidden in the book.  In true McDougall style the book meanders around a main story and repeatedly bounces backwards and forwards, giving an insight into movement efficiency and feeling that movement.

Now, the following is a real short summary of the key points McDougall brings up:

  • Learn to move efficiently.  As humans we evolved to move quickly over lots of different terrain and doing it using muscle power isn’t necessarily the best way of achieving an end goal.  I mentioned this in an earlier post and it was nice to see some evidence based writing to back it up.
  • Learn to burn fat as fuel.  Fad diets aside, this makes perfect sense just based on the energy content of fat per gram.
  • Train to be useful.  This is probably the best bit and in short…  Don’t specialise and be adaptable.  Go for a training run, but throw in a climb or two along the way, pick a route where you have to climb and jump around and learn that all important lesson.  Trust your instinct and let your body instictively workout what it needs to do, including feeling and hydration. 

So, is the book worth a read?

The answer is yes.

Is the book a manual on how to be a heroe or preach about barefoot running, diet change or any of the above billet point?

No.  It mentions them in the context of what the main characters of the book achieved and how they managed it, despite a diet and hydration plan that according to today’s thinking should have caused their death beiges they started. 

I’ve finished the book, it was given to me for free and so it needs a new home and this is how it’s new home will be chosen.  All you have to do is say why the book should make its way to you next by commenting here, on barefootlejog’s Facebook page or tweet @fat_man_runs with the #barefootlejog. 

Best comment gets a free book 😉

The Hows Of Unsupported Barefoot LeJog

I think I should write a post that has the hows, the whats and the whens of this challenge.  Lots of questions have been asked and putting things into practice has meant that I have a better idea of what is sensible, what is a bad idea and how to make this thing run as smoothly as I can.

1.  Unsupported?

Well, originally I was expecting to do this alone and being completely self sufficient.  I am going to carry all the equipment that is necessary to survive on a day to day basis, use shops and water sources along the way to get what I need in terms of food and equipment and use a tent for accommodation.  Now, this challenge isn’t about achieving any record attempt but more about getting people to engage and spread awareness of both the condition and the charity, so I have said that people are welcom to join in along the way and if food or shelter is offered I am likely to say ‘yes, thank you’
2.  Barefoot?

This is the most contentious point for some.  I will be carrying a pair of Luna sandals for a few reasons.  Wet weather softens the skin on feet and so the skin wears away faster, and is far more easily damaged.  My goal is to complete the distance so if it is wet and the terrain is likely to damage my feet I am going to stick them on.  If my feet get damaged or if the terrain is such that I have to go too slow then I’ll be putting the sandals on.  If I had the luxury of time, I wouldn’t resort to the sandals.  What people should know that when I took part in the Edale Skyline race I didn’t put the sandals on despite sub zero conditions, perpetual wet surfaces and terrain that is super rugged.  It just felt like I was cheating when I took them off my pack, so they went back on my pack.

3.  Mileage schedule?

I’ve done some self experimentation and discussed this a fair bit.  Best idea is 35 miles per day, with a projected finish time of 5 weeks.  This give me a week’s grace in case I need it to recover or in case I happen to make a poor route choice.  The whole journey is so long that it’s hard to comprehend large stages, so, I won’t try and think about it.  It’s going to be a case of persistent forward motion and one step at a time.  If all goes well, I should be able to cover the distance by speed hiking or running.  

4.  Failure?

This will be the most difficult thing to acknowledge.  If something goes wrong, I’ll keep going but a point will come when I will have to acknowledge that I’ve failed.  All that means is that I decided to attempt this challenge too early, so I will go back to training and then repeat it every summer until I complete it.

5.  Motivation?

This has changed…

First it was finding if it is possible, then proving people wrong and now I’ve come to realise that these reasons are superficial.  The main thing that will move me forwards is the people I know and have met on the Internet, who have lost loved ones, survived and been given support by Stroke Association, or are caring for loved ones that have suffered a stroke.  I seem to feel a huge sense of reponsibiltiy toward these people and will feel that I have let them down if I don’t complete this challenge.  Then, there’s those who have shown support by buying a t-shirt or donating to Stroke Associstion.  I think that challenges are more achievable the more a person feels accountable for their actions.

6.  Equipment?

This is the easiest to address. I’m going to carry the minimal equipment is need.  Luxury items will be kept to a minimum and the main focus is on weight and functionality.  Too heavy and I’m going to have issues with my body.  Not functional or suitable and it’s going to potentially put a stop to the challenge.  

Hopefully this makes thing a little more clear for those interested and if you have any more questions then feel free to ask.

The 5th Element Of Trail Running

Sean Conway has written a straight forward blog post about the 4 elements of trail running, which is both a good read and has some really good points that anyone doing long runs out on trails should really think about.

Here’s the thing.  In martial arts, in particular when studying and practicing form, you work on making the movements second nature.  In other words, training should be something that makes running or moving along trails your natural state.  Learning to be aware of your body’s needs, strengthening weaknesses and finally, knowing how to cope with those emergencies (like a suddenly drop in temperature) in an almost isntinctive way is what makes up the 5th element of trail running.  Being able to move with almost inhuman efficiency.

Now this is just my thoughts and ideas on screen.  If you make running trails your natural state, your body will respond by adapting.  As a species, we are incredible endurance machines with the capacity to adapt on the move, and of achieving what our modern, sedentary and comfortable lives would deem impossible.  

The limiting factor in this whole thing is our preconceptions of what is physically possible.