Marathon inspiration

If you, like me, believe that we can all aspire to be better and that one of the ways to do that is to look up occasionally and watch the stars, then as a marathon runner you really must watch this video. I believe that running is about searching down inside and really asking yourself “what am I capable of” and I believe that in mst cases the answer will be… more than you think you are capable of. Tell me, how many people in Wanjiru’s position in the Chicago marathon, with Kabede forcing the pace and surging the way he was, would have settled for second? Well, one person in Wanjiru’s position decided that he was going to make a race of it – that person was Sammy Wanjiru.

Really inspirational stuff, I hope you will agree.

Body image from a different perspective

Having taken up running to regain control over my life & to lose weight, I’ve found myself being quite emotional reading Chrissie Wellington’s amazing book and the challenges that she has overcome with regards to how she feels about her body. She says that she has reached a point now where she appreciates her body for what it does, not what it looks like. At times I still find myself disappointed by the way I look in the mirror despite the amount of hard work that I put in to my running. When this sort of thought invades my mind I often embrace it as another motivation to train harder or add a few more miles. But I think now that this is still pretty negative. So I have decided to start loving my body a bit more – I think that I can say, quite dispassionately and objectively, that my body has done more than I ever imagined it would, in spite of the abuse that it suffered for years at my hands. So: from my ugly feet (with one rather impressively blackened toenail at the moment – is it ever not so?) to the tip of my permanent bed-head, I thank you for what we’ve done together and I’m excited about what we are still to achieve… oh and thanks Chrissie for an important lesson.

Union boss calls for Olympic strikes

In the Guardian today, Len McCluskey has said that in an attempt to force the government to bend to the demands of public sector workers, he is going to encourage the members of his union Unite, which includes 28,000 bus drivers, to strike during the Olympics. You can read the article here.

His argument seems to be centered around the idea that

If there is a protest, then the purpose of protest is to bring your grievances to the attention of as many people as possible.

McCluskey goes on to say that

If the Olympics provide us with an opportunity, then that’s exactly one that we should be looking at [to further the dispute]

The Guardian goes on to report that he also said that any attempt by ministers to tighten anti-strike legislation would lead to unions deliberately breaking the law.

So let me get this straight – the members of our unions, protesting (quite possibly legitimately) about the size of their guaranteed pensions, think that by massively inconveniencing thousands of foreign visitors, who frankly don’t give a shit about our public sector workers’ pensions whilst simultaneously making our civil servants look like a bunch of greedy sniveling self-interested plonkers to a global audience, will help their cause.

No, in my opinion what it will do is tarnish the greatest sporting event that this country has seen for decades if not generations and ruin the event for many people that we should be welcoming to our country. Oh and it will speed up the abolition of unions in this country. I suppose that if all it achieves is an end to power-wielding bullies, then it will be a price we have to pay. I am sure that when attacked by the very people employed to support and help us, the British spirit will come to the fore and we’ll have a great Olympic Games anyway. At least I hope so.

A quiet anger

Recently I seem to have found many angry people in my life, both professionally and personally. I find anger very disturbing and not something I can relate to at all. It seems like such a destructive and negative and illogical emotion. Someone I used to work with – who was a very, very angry man most of the time – once told me that anger was the result of not being able to control situations. The more I think about it, the more I think he was right.

In all sport there are degrees and types of anger. Obviously violent and contact sports encourage and indeed rely on anger. Boxing, wrestling, cage-fighting, rugby… these sports, whilst arguing that they help to channel aggression and anger, actually encourage it (perhaps albeit within the confines of rules) and the behaviour of two British boxes at a press conference recently did nothing to dispell my feeling that boxing is controlled thuggery and that outside the ring and away from the confines of rules, all that is left is aggression.

In team sports like football, rugby, hockey, ice-hockey, etc there are varying degrees of on- and off-field aggression and violence. In most cases this is not a sanctioned part of the game, but it is palpable and very real. I do find that the rhetoric around ‘crushing the opposition’ or ‘destroying the opponent’ is tedious and tiresome.

So what? You might ask. Well, I am interested in what the difference is, that means that violence or thuggery is so rarely a part of running that it is negligible. And I have come to the conclusion that it is not that runners do not use force and aggression, but they do it in a different way – it is a quiet anger. I have not found the perfect words for the concept I am trying to describe, but for starters I am going to suggest that the quiet anger is made up of:

  • discipline
  • determination or grit
  • resilience
  • control
  • single-mindedness
  • consistency
  • self confidence

I think that runners display many or all of these characteristics along with a sense of humour and humility. The opposition in running is not there to be controlled by force or threat. There is no way to bully those that you run against. If you want to win, you simply have to train harder and run faster. Furthermore for most of us the opposition is not even another person – it is the distance, the clock and ourselves. So time and time again, when I ask the best runners I know what drives them or read about the motivations behind the best runners and endurance athletes on the planet, it is a desire to be the best they can be, to train as hard as they can and to enjoy the journey. Long may that continue.

How to fillet a fish

My Nan is an amazing woman – 96 years old and still going strong. In 96 years, one gets a lot of stuff done and my Nan is no exception. As a result, she knows how to do a lot of stuff.

A few years ago I had returned from the shops with a fish – I can’t remember what it was – and I wanted to fillet it. I checked a few books, ‘googled’ it, watched some YouTube videos… and got completely confused. So I called my Nan who used to work in a fishmongers when she was first married. Nan said something that has stayed with me to this day:

There is usually the correct way to do something, but remember what you are trying to do – remove the fillets from a fish – and work out the best way for you to do it

There’s no plaice for that story on a running blog

What does that have to do with running? Well, everything actually. Today I received an email from a runner asking for a bit of advice on an injury she has picked up. I suggested she should go to a physio or osteopath, but failing that she should use an online tool that a friend has created – the Running Injury Oracle – to nail down what the injury is. Then we discussed remedies. The problem is that she had already had advice from at least half a dozen people. Some said rest and treat the injury, others said rest and don’t treat. Still others said keep running and treat. And so on. Then there was a plethora of suggestions for how to treat the injury…

Choose who you listen to

The net result is that the runner is totally confused. And I sympathise. I was lucky that when I started running I did it very quietly and I picked my panel of advisers one by one as I needed them, starting with my best friend who had started running a year before: then a chiropractor who was recommended by a friend (and who was the only chiropractor I’d ever visited): next my local specialist running shop for all my shoes and kit. And so on.

But in these times of the world wide web and the social media revolution, there is instant access to millions of opinions, many of which come from people who…

  • have no investment in you or your problems
  • don’t really have the experience to know what ails you and the best way to fix it (the 10,000 hours rule)
  • don’t know you well enough to offer advice that is appropriate for you

Who do I believe?

Hopefully your coach will be this approachable

So I think that the best advice that I can offer comes from the person whose advice I really do believe in – my coach Nick Anderson. Nick’s position is that whilst he sets the training programme that he believes is ideal for the target that the athlete has set him/herself, the athlete must take responsibility for their training. Nick can’t possibly know that I have had a sleepless night, or that I didn’t get to eat properly yesterday, or that work is really stressful at the moment, or that I have picked up a little niggle that might be verging on an injury. So I have to think about what I should be doing and how to get the best out of myself. And Nick knows me, cares about me and is invested in my success – so when I do ask him for advice he thinks about what is best for me, rather than regurgitating something he’s heard somewhere before or the portmanteau bit of advice that is always offered to everyone.

How do I end this post then? Well, obviously with some advice:

  • Pick your advisers wisely, based on their experience as well as personal chemistry.
  • Learn to be in touch with your body so that when it is telling you something, you can listen, understand what it is saying and react to that.
  • Take responsibility: this is one of the joys of running and will spill over from running into the rest of your life. Enjoy being responsible!

The A-Z of running brands

Design by Imeus Design

Last night my wife and I had a little housewarming party. As was to be expected, the majority of guests were runners and at some point the conversation turned to the foibles that runners have. I joked that I store and wear all my running kit in alphabetical order by brand (I don’t, I assure you… although I now wonder whether it might be a good idea perhaps!) and this lead on to a lively conversation with Nick and Phoebe from runningwithus, Tom Craggs from Perfect Fit Training and his girlfriend Wendy and Dionne Allen, where we tried to list find a running brand for every letter of the alphabet. Given the late hour and presence of alcohol we did surprisingly (or should that be worryingly) well:

 

 

AAdidas
BBrooks
CColumbia (thanks to Dom for that one on Saturday afternoon)
D – Diadora (I think it was Tom who said that he has been passed by someone wearing Diadora shorts before!)
EEtonic (there were quite a few votes for this brand that may be building a presence in the UK)
FFila (back in the ’80s Fila was quite a significant running brand!)
GGarmin
HHelly Hansen
IIcebreaker (great call from Wendy there – we were stuck on this one for a while and a really nice website in my opinion)
J – Jack Wolfskin (Dionne suggested this, telling me that they have just launched a trail shoe)
K – K-Swiss (suggested by Tom Scott as a replacement for the pathetic Kappa that we came up with last night)
LLa Sportiva
MMizuno
NNike
OOakley
PPearl Izumi
QQuechua
RRon Hill
SSaucony
TTimex
UUnderarmour
VVaseline (no runner is properly dressed without a dab of vaseline!)
WWalsh
XXempo
YYaktrax (rather topical given all the snow at the moment)
ZZoot (thanks to fellow Mornington Chaser Andrea Sanders-Reece for this one)

There are a few gaps and some very questionable brands there, so if you have suggestions for the missing letters or improvements on the suggestions, please let me know!

Response to the post The Culture of Entitlement

There is a blog written by a dear friend of mine, Muireann Carey-Campbell, which you can find here. I really implore you to go and read it. Wait! Not yet… no, read this post first, then go and read Bang’s writing (I’m worried you might never come back!)

Bangs writes wonderful posts in which she really ‘tells it like it is’ and to be honest tonight I created the ‘opinions’ category on this blog so that I can comment on her latest post. Bangs has written about the culture of entitlement that she sees as a blight on our society. After you have read this post you can read Bangs’ piece here.

My response to Muireann’s piece is that she has hit on something that I have been thinking about for a while as well – the fact that so many people want to know what the secret to becoming a runner, and especially a good runner, is?

Secret? There is no secret. All you have to do is run… regularly, occasionally hard and consistently. But as Bangs points out:

Everyone seems to want to put in the least effort for the maximum reward

Well sorry for the bad news, but if you want to become a better runner, you need to train harder. And keep training harder. There are a few people in our society who have worked this out, and I an honoured to know some of them. One particularly notable example is the RunDemYoungers, set up by Charlie Dark, founder of the RunDemCrew. This is a group of young people who have endured and persevered through the training required for a half marathon and they all completed it! And now? Now they are creating and leading and inspiring others. These youngsters give me hope. I take my hat off to them. But they are different. They are not the majority. So to the majority I have this message from Bangs post:

Life is not a cruise. You do not get awards merely for showing up. You are not entitled to zip. Let’s get back to the era of working hard and proving your worth. Let’s stop throwing the toys out of the pram every time something doesn’t go your way. Prove why people should give a damn and generally, just try harder. That goes for all of us.

 

Does my opinion count?

Many moons ago I started a blog about running that is now defunct. The blog was basically about me and my running and what I thought about running. It was, at the very least, a little narcissistic. Boring even. So I killed it in favour of a blog (this one) that I hope can inspire and inform people who are on the same journey as me and the millions of runners around the world.

But from time to time I still read something or have a conversation with someone which I really want to comment on. It is unlikely that my opinion will help anyone become the best runner they can be or smooth the path to helping them discover just what they are capable of as a runner. But it might start a debate (I sincerely hope it will) or allow me to explore issues that I think are important and somehow related to running. If you do end up reading any of the opinion posts I really hope you will share yours.