Things That Will Be Missed Part 1 – #RunE1Trail #GetOutside

 

I once had someone to spend my time with.  Someone who I thought would be beside me for the rest of my life, but that wasn’t meant to be.  The gap that should be there however, is filled with a love for the Lake District fells.  Their unpredictable temperament, their harsh terrain and the beautiful simplicity of moving around them.

To all the fells of the Lake District…

I will miss you!

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

Join the support and pledge for adventure -> #E1Run

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

#GetOutside, #PushYourLimits & Become More Than Before

I’ve written something about the mentality the allows someone to push on when others would stop and spent long tired hours contemplating how it is that we can keep moving when really, by the popular consensus we should have quit, stopped and returned.

Earlier in the year I wrote a post about a moment of realisation that seemed to changed my whole approach and outlook to getting myself outside my comfort zone.  The below is a small section of it, and probably the most important sections…

“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.”

Here’s something I’ve recently clocked on to, without being nebulous…

I tweeted that I was likely to fail in my next challenge (a winter BGR in sandals), but since its for a good cause I’d take it on.  It’s been something I’ve wanted to try for the last 2 years and after supporting a friend on the route in summer, I’ve become slightly obsessed with it, or more accurately fallen in love with the stupidity of the UK rounds.

For those that don’t know, the UK rounds involve long distances, lots of peaks and the main national parks of the UK.  All of them have ridiculous amounts of ascent, are ultra distances, involved as many peaks as you can grab and require lots of navigation and outdoor skills.  This is all before you consider the fitness needed and the mentality that goes hand in hand with these challenges.  There are 3 big rounds in the UK that I’m fascinated by, mostly because of the mental aspect.  How does a person cope mentally with such a challenge?

This is where the tweet reply from Ricky comes in….

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At some point along the way, I seem to have embraced the philosophy that I was so interested in when I was at the end of my university degree, and even more interested in when I went back to college to try my hand at photography.

It’s a simple concept.

When faced with adversity you should embrace failure before you even begin.  But this seems to completely counter what we are told about positive mental attitude.  Think about it happening, see yourself being successful and you will be.  The thing is, it’s an oddly peaceful mental state to get into.  As soon as you acknowledge the failure and embrace it, a sense of indifference seems to roll over you.  You aren’t worried about failing.  It’s almost as though the failure doesn’t exist.  The same happens with the thoughts of success.  They seem to disintegrate as you develop the same sense of indifference to the idea of finishing successfully.

What is there left if your indifferent to it all?  Well, its an odd sense of nothingness, where you simply act as is needed.   You develop a strange sense of purpose that drives you forwards, regardless of pain, tiredness or injury.  Most importantly, you act as you need to act, freed from the usual constraints that inform or shape our decisions when involved in challenges.

I am a fan of the phrase “endeavour to cultivate stupidity” because for me it embodies this attitude to challenges.  I will be starting a whole new part of my little adventure, and it will be interesting to see what happens, but for now, I’m going to focus on getting in the right frame of mind to complete probably the hardest physical challenge of my life…

The Bob Graham round, and I will do it to raise awareness of the fundraising that the Cumbrian Foundation are doing. So, if you wish to help you can get involved in one of the following ways:

 

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?

The Season Of Mixed Emotions

Taking a time out to enjoy the view and colours.

I find Autumn to be an odd month.  It comes with a sense of loss as Summer ends and those warm and relaxed days are replaced by days that start and end in the dark, the temperature drops and the winter moodiness sets in, but at the same time it’s full of sense of joy and wander as the countryside transforms.  Gone is the green and in comes the varying shades ranging from yellow to red.

It’s also that time of year when people find a myriad of excuses to not get outside.  I would have been one of these people, but luckily, my training bud organised me into an early Sunday run.  No excuses we’re made today and it was glorious.  I’m amazed at how lucky I am to live where I do, so I’ll stop using words and hope that the pictures will do this mornings views some justice. 🙂


Being shown new trails is always great fun.

Running through the mist that was clinging to the rocky edge.

Chatsworth estate, where all the trees have folaige that starts at exactly the same height.

Run done, so time for breakfast and tea.

The 21 Day Countdown

Justgiving.com/barefootlejog

  
There’s three weeks left to go, £2647 raised and 1,280 miles and 144,000ft of ascent completed in training. 

Right now I have a nice view up on a hill somewhere between Buxton and Belper, making my way to the Derwent River relays.   The sun is warming up for a spectacular display, I’m about to make a tea and get ready for pitch up and get some sleep before an early start in the morning.  

Hope your weekend starts as pleasantly as mine seems to be 🙂

3 Out Of 5 On The Bob Graham Round

Yesterday, along with several others, I supported Clare Holdcroft, a buxton runner, on her attempt to conquer the Bob Graham Round, a 65 miles circular route that takes in 42 of the highest points in the Lake District.  In total it has approximately  the same amount of accumulative height gain as Mount Everest, and is mostly off-road.

It was an absolute privilege to witness Clare running and be part of her tremendous journey, al be it for 3 out of the 5 sections, and I have to say that I am truly inspired by the whole experience.  Apart from he obvious display of super human endurance, everyone in the support team (whether running or checkpoint support) where totally focused on Clare and her well being, carrying her food, equipment, water and making sure that she didn’t have to worry about navigation.

There’s 4 weeks to go till the start of Barefoot Le Jog, and to have this as training and experience, is priceless, but I’m going to stop spoiling the whole thing through my clumsy use of words and let the pictures speak for themselves.

If you have ever wandered why I, or anyone else, would choose to run for hours on end through the wilderness, then look no further than these images.

Clare after the first leg of the BGR, having a quick break.

Clare after the first leg of the BGR, having a quick break.

Break over and it was time to set off.

Break over and it was time to set off.

The first climb of leg 2 begins.

The first climb of leg 2 begins.

The sun shortly after sunset.

The sun shortly after sunset.

First big climb done and en route to the next peak

First big climb done and en route to the next peak

Several peaks later and as we approached the first peak of leg 3 the sun began its rise.

Several peaks later and as we approached the first peak of leg 3 the sun began its rise.

Pre sunrise light.

Pre sunrise light.

Temperature inversion in the valley bellow.

Temperature inversion in the valley bellow.

Almost time to remove the head torches.  The sun had a little surprise for us.

Almost time to remove the head torches. The sun had a little surprise for us.

The sky beginning to catch fire.

The sky beginning to catch fire.

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Sunrise and the sky over the Lake District explodes into colour.

Sunrise and the sky over the Lake District explodes into colour.

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A brief respite from climbing and just enough time to enjoy this.

A brief respite from climbing and just enough time to enjoy this.

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Another peak bagged

Another peak bagged

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hiding the seriously suspicious looking zip-lock bag of Tailwind Nutrition

hiding the seriously suspicious looking zip-lock bag of Tailwind Nutrition

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Navigation cairns.  Although, with Kirsty and Mandy at the helm, these weren't really of any use.

Navigation cairns. Although, with Kirsty and Mandy at the helm, these weren’t really of any use.

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Lord's Rake, AKA "really?!  After 40 miles this is the best route?"

Lord’s Rake, AKA “really?! After 40 miles this is the best route?”

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getting ready for his second leg of support by drying out socks and shoes.

getting ready for his second leg of support by drying out socks and shoes.

Final leg.

Final leg.

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Cocophany Of Voices – The Final Few Steps @trailrunningmag @runnersworld 

justgiving.com/barefootlejog 

There’s 6 weeks left to get everything sorted, to finish physical training and mental training.

It’s getting trickier to balance work time and training time along side publicising BarefootLeJog to make the concept of raising money for Stroke Association and raising awareness of strokes successful, and to top it off, the quite sanctuary that I call the void seems to have gained some new occupants that I don’t remember inviting!

One of these unwanted guests spread a message of doubt whilst the other one briefly acknowledges the progress made in training.  Luckily, the more positive voice tends to win since training gets completed, recovery happens and damage repairs quickly.

So what left to do?

  • Set waypoints on a map and send to the company providing the GPS tracking
  • Sorting out the missing kit that is going to be essential
  • Working with the helpful Bob at Backpacking Lightweight to improve the possibility of corporate type sponsors
  • Mapping the entire route to allow people to organise joining me along the route
  • Potential accommodation for the odd bit of creature comforts and the essential showers or baths
  • Testing kit to make sure that it is 100% useable

Next week starts an easy week, so runs and cross training will be lower mileage or intensity, which I think my body is crying out for and I’d rather not force it towards injury by over training.  

The final piece of this puzzle is preparing mentally for the extreme change in lifestyle and focusing on small steps along the way, acknowledging the inevitable pain and blocking out the optional suffering.  Hopefully, I can evict the negative voice that’s invaded my void and get back to just running because it allows me to return to myself. 

Thanks for everyone’s support so far.  I’ll do everything in the run up to the run, and during the run, that I can to live up to the kind words and acts.

The Beautiful Art Of Moving Slowly

Over the last few days I’ve come to one scary realisation…

I need to relearn how to walk when barefooted.  It’s a completely different movement to walking with shoes.  Even the most minimal of shoes like the vivobarefoot shoes, which I use at work, change your “natural” movement.

What is this shod movement I’m on about

Wel… 

The heels comes down, makes ground contact and you roll on to your foot before pushing off on to the other foot.

This doesn’t work on harsh surfaces or over any given distance.  Your heel will start to feel sore and if you don’t change your movement pattern, the mother of all blisters is going to erupt, like a volcano, at the base of your heel. I’ve been experiencing it, but sensibly stopping before a blister forms trying to work out if it’s how hard I stroke the floor, the position if my foot in relation to my knee or pelvis, or just how I place my foot down. 

So, I now need to incorporate some serious retraining of something I’ve been doing all my life.  It’s inevitable that I will walk a fair chunk of the route from Land’s End to John O’Groats, so if I don’t address this need for change, I can see lots of pain in the near future.

The way of walking that seems to work is to place your forefoot down first and let the foot squash down as you move forwards, adding a certain salsaesc swing to the hips!  It’s lots quieter, feels smoother and seems to be faster than moving with the same cadence (number of steps per minute) as heel striking.

It’s kind of interesting since the general consensus is to land forefoot first when running too. 

So, if you see someone wandering around, looking like they should be holding castanets as they walk, it might just be that they’ve mastered this barefoot skill.  Who knows, if they’re not wearing shoes and it’s summer, it might even be me 😉

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!