You may have noticed that many people start their reply to a question, or even a statement, with ‘Yes, No’. It is completely meaningless and I find it annoying, but I suppose I should be grateful that it seems to have replaced other fillers, such as ‘basically’ which I find more annoying.
However, for me ‘yes, no’ has a particular resonance as I have been changing my running life by saying yes and no more. No to entering races. In the past someone would say ‘do you fancy entering XYZ race?’ and I would say yes. I enjoy running and would enjoy the race, but it was no big thing. Then I realized that I was spending a lot of time, effort and money going to races that were okay, but, to use a dreadful American saying, did not offer a big bang for the buck.
Initially even though I meant to say no I found myself saying yes so I set myself some rules. I will not enter any races in the UK and when I say yes to an overseas event, I will first consider what else I could be doing with the time, money and effort. I was asked to run a race on the coastal path in North Devon and Cornwall, I said no. I have already run part of the route and the bit I haven’t I have made a note to run when I am next in the area. Instead I said yes to someone I met last year at a race in Spain (The Way of the Legends) who lived in Switzerland and invited me to run the Scenic Trails race (photo above).
Wow what an event that was, I now have a totally different perspective on hills – the UK South West Coastal Path is flat. I also further developed a rewarding friendship and, as we went into Italy for lunch the following day, added another country to the list of those I have visited. Plenty of bang for the buck.
I have also started to apply the yes,no principle to the rest of my life. Saying no to negative people and saying yes to positive ones. No to voluntary jobs I used to feel obliged to do and yes to ones that will make a big difference and add to my experiences.
YES,NO -I love it!
Today was a lovely sunny day, as it was yesterday. Yesterday I was helping with a race, the Poets Path Potter, and although I loved the fact that I was helping other people have a great time I wanted to run. Today when I was free all day I didn’t feel like going out for a run. Isn’t that perverse? I tell other people that if they do not feel like running they should go anyway with the promise to themselves that if they are not enjoying it after 10 minutes they can turn back. They very seldom do turn back.
I followed my own advice and headed out. I should say at this point that running is not a game; it’s not played in teams like rugby or football nor is it a competition against someone else, with well laid down processes and rules like chess or tennis. Yes, you do get people competing against each other in things called games (E.g. the Olympic and Commonwealth Games), but for most of us running is not that sort of game. Nor is it an idle pastime like Trivial Pursuits. For me running is something that keeps me physically and mentally healthy and adds greatly to my quality of life. But, when I looked out of the window, saw the sunshine and realised that I did not want to run I did think ‘ Running is a strange old game’ and I have not been able to come up with a better title for this blog post.
After 10 minutes I was not feeling the joy, however I thought that for a lumbering ultra runner like me it would take a little longer so I kept on going. After half an hour, there was just a glimmer that things might turn out well so I kept on going and about fifteen minutes later I was heading up the path in the photograph above; then I felt the magic. I realised how lucky I am to be able to run and come across little gems in the countryside like this. I ran on with a lightness in my step (except on the up hills; they were still a struggle) wondering how often in life do we either not start or give up just before the magic happens.
My main motivator to get to the end of an event is beer. It is probably a bit more complex than that, but the beer symbolises a lot of the good things about achieving big goals. However, staying motivated to train and to keep trying new things, to keep moving outside my comfort zone is a little more difficult and beer is probably the last thing I should be thinking about. It is normally people that give me that extra impetus when my spirit is flagging.
I was very lucky to have been inspired recently by two completely different people. One was small, the other big, the small one was female and had run quite a few 100-mile races. The big guy had only recently completed a half-marathon. I am not going to use their names, because I’m not sure they would appreciate it. My 100-mile friend would certainly give me a hard time for calling her small.
I had planned to run back down part of the route of my friend’s last 100-mile race, meet her to offer support and jelly babies and perhaps run with her a bit. When I parked at my starting point I realised I was behind one of the race officials cars and I went over to say hello. He was able to use his laptop to track all the runners so was able to tell me where my friend was. I soon realised that she would not make the cut-off at the checkpoint she was heading towards so I drove there ready to pick up the pieces. It was some time before she hobbled in, cold and in a lot of pain from her foot, but she still managed a smile. I knew that finishing the event was a big goal for her; she had been forced to retire from the event the previous year. Her dignity in defeat inspired me. I was not surprised when she told me a few days later that she would be entering next year and she had worked out what she had to do differently to succeed. I have always avoided that event thinking it was too difficult for me. I think I need to man up! I am going to enter next year, hopefully I will be able to keep up with her.
I met the big guy in London at a workshop about how to make money from your passion. The first part of the workshop was about what was holding us back and didn’t really bring out what are passions were. I assumed that the big guy, taller than me and a lot of kilos heavier, was perhaps into photography or posh travel; he was a banker. But no, his passion was running and blogging, in particular he wanted to get people who weren’t very sporty running and organised several run groups. I learnt that he had had some medical problems which he had to over come to get fit as well as other peoples’ negativity. He explained that when he went into a running shop to buy some gels for his half-marathon the look they gave him said ‘What are you buying those for? They are for Runners’. His passion for running was immense as was his desire to help others. I came away motivated to do more to help others overcome barriers to an active and healthy life.
I love the sense of freedom that running gives me, that is why I now don’t enter many races; I don’t want to follow a set route or start at a set time. Most of my running is over open access land on Dartmoor and Bodmin moor so I can go where I want and don’t have to follow footpaths. You would have thought rules were the last thing I want, but I have some I live by when running and recently embraced two more.
I learnt about them at a recent Alps Ultra Running seminar. All the talk was about the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc (UTMB), but the organisers didn’t call it that because UTMB are as quick to sue over trade mark infringement as Buff are. The speakers had all completed the event, but at different levels. Nicky Spinks, who eats ultra for breakfast, (look up her CV) was very inspirational and almost in a throw away remark mentioned her ‘Rule of three.’ She explained that we all are guilty of knowing what we should do in an event and then not doing it. So her solution was the ‘Rule of three’; if you think of something three times do it. For example, if you think ‘I should eat something’, but can’t be bothered to get it out of your pack then think, ‘I should eat something’, but can’t be bother to get it out of your pack the third time you think it YOU DO IT!
I used that rule the other day while running on Dartmoor. The wind on top of the moor was making it colder than I had expected it to be. My extra layer was at the bottom of my backpack and I couldn’t be bothered to get it, it wasn’t that cold. The third time I thought about it I did it and that meant I didn’t get any colder and was happy to stay on the moor for a long time. Had I left it until later I would have been too cold and cut my run short. The rule extended my freedom.
The other rule was from Neil Thubron (Extreme Energy Events) and was a variation of my own 10 minute rule. His rule was that if you feel like dropping out of an event at a checkpoint go on for another ten minutes. If you still feel like dropping out after that 10 minutes go back to the checkpoint. 99% of the time you won’t go back. There aren’t any checkpoints on my runs over Dartmoor, but there are places where I can make a turn to shorten the route if I do not want to do the distance I had originally planned (a fairly loose concept for me). So, the next time I was out and wanted to cut back early I kept going for another 10 minutes, promising myself I’d turn back and take the shorter route if I still felt unmotivated. I didn’t turn back, but continued on and had a lovely run. Again more freedom time because of a rule.
My 10 minute rule is, if you don’t feel like going for a run, perhaps because you feel under the weather, go out anyway and if after 10 minutes you still feel bad go back. Most times I don’t turn back, but on the very few times I do it is the right decision.
Any rule that helps me run more is fine by me, but don’t expect me to be conventional.
I thought for this blog post I’d let the pictures do the talking.
Views from the Kalahari, Northern Cape, South Africa & Dartmoor, Cornwall, England.
A simple post on Facebook about Lancing College in West Sussex brought some wonderful and powerful memories flooding back. It was fitting that the post was made by a South African friend because most of those memories were about South Africa. Lancing College is an imposing building that you cannot fail to see driving along the A27 near Worthing. My friend had posted 3 photographs primarily for the benefit of his wife. I do not know what memories the photos invoked for her; I hope they were as pleasant as mine.
My connection with Lancing College was very brief; I ran a 10k race there in 1999, however that 10k race was one of the most significant moments in my running life; it was when I realised that there is immense joy in simple things and it was when my passion for trail running was first ignited. Why was the Lancing 10k such a pivotal event? Because it was my first event after running the Comrades Marathon, a 56-mile ultra in South Africa, and after that event I felt nothing else would be as good. I had experienced the ultimate challenge and anything less would be an anti-climax. Comrades is probably the biggest and best ultramarathon in the world, with well over 10,000 runners and 100s of thousands of spectators lining the route. It is South Africa’s national treasure. The Lancing 10k on the other hand is a small, low-key event; the year I did it the weather was dismal and it rained a lot, which probably accounted for the fact that there was only one man and his dog out on the course spectating. I loved it. That is when I realised there is joy to be had just from the simple pleasure of being in the elements and putting one foot in front of the other in quick succession. I loved the atmosphere and occasion of Comrades, but I also loved the solitude of a soggy wet hillside in typical British weather.
Thank you Greg for posting those photographs and reminding me of all the good times I have had running and all the friendships I have made, especially those like yours, forged in the searing heat of the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon also in South Africa. And thank you for reminding me of the simple pleasures running brings. I must go and make some more memories.
A little while ago two people I know suffered minor injuries and had to visit a hospital. One was staying with a friend and got up in the night to go to the toilet, unfortunately he bumped into a low table and bruised his leg. A few days later he started to feel unwell and the site of the bruise was looking very unpleasant so he went to hospital. The diagnosis was that he had blood poisoning and was given antibiotics. He was rushed back into hospital a little later having had an adverse reaction to the antibiotics. I’m please to say he has recovered now.
The other person was a runner and had hurt his knee, but not badly, falling during a race. A few weeks later he entered another hilly, technical off-road race, the knee protested and swelled up quite dramatically. He took himself off to the minor injuries unit where they gave him some anti-inflammatories and refereed him to the main hospital for a scan. Fortunately there was no serious damage.
The guy with the bruise got a great deal of sympathy from friends and acquaintances, but the runner got some criticism from people for burdening the NHS with a self-inflicted injury. I think those views should be reversed because I have the full picture.
Our furniture bumper eats a very poor diet (and a great deal of it) and does not move about very much. He is obese, has type II diabetes as a result and takes a cocktail of drugs to treat a variety of ailments arising from his inactivity and obesity. His poor health probably resulted in the bruise causing more problems that it would have for you and me. He is a very regular visitor to his GP’s surgery and local hospital.
The runner has not visited his GP for five years, except once to get a medical certificate for a foreign race, he had to pay for that, and has not been in hospital before the recent visit with the knee problem. I know who I would criticise for being a drain on the NHS.