Non, je ne regrette rien.

kaem_a3-poster-uk-version-3-003-724x1024This post was inspire by a Somali nurse featured on Desert Island Discs selecting the Edith Piaf song ‘Non, je regrette rein’ as one of her choices. The thoughts and ideas had been swirling around inside my head for some considerable time. Hearing that song coalesced them into something coherent. Perhaps because it provided a title to hang those ideas from.

For the last ten years in October I have travelled to South Africa to take part in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon. This year I stayed at home. As the time of the event approached friends asked me if I was going to miss being there and during the week of the race it reached a crescendo, with many people asking if I had withdrawal symptoms. I didn’t miss being there, I didn’t have withdrawal symptom; I had no regrets. There is a reason for that; it was planned and I have a very good reason for not going.

Last year, before I went out to South Africa, I decide that, if I finished and thereby completed my tenth race, I would not be back the following year.  During the race in 2016 I took the time to re-examine that decision and decided it was the right decision. At the awards ceremony, when I was presented with my permanent number for completing ten events (the only person to have ever done that), I gave a short, emotional speech and announced to my fellow runners, the support crew and the race organisers, my very good friends, that I would not be back in 2017.

Why did I decide that? The Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon has provided me with the most amazing experiences, I have met many wonderful people and made some very deep and enduring friendships. Those things are like bold, colourful brush strokes on a canvas. In 2017 the picture was complete, to add any more would have at best obscured some of what had gone before and may have even ruined that wonderful picture. That canvas now hangs on my memory wall in a very special place. Non, je ne regrette rein.

The break has also opened up a new opportunity. I now have a blank canvas on which more colourful brush strokes can be applied to record the next ten years of taking part in the Kalahari Augrabies Extreme Marathon. I am going back in 2018 to start that whole process again; it will be a different picture, but I am confident that it will be just as beautiful as the first.




fb_img_1487241310547A 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.