Spring

Well it didn’t seem as dark and wet and drawn out as I originally thought it would, but winter is over. The new month of March has heralded the start of spring. In honesty, despite a couple of weeks of snow, which felt like winter giving us one more kick in the shins before it died, it’s been feeling like spring is here since early February. The telltale signs like the daffodil shoots coming through, the expectant swathes of snowdrops, and, my favourite, the increased bird song and activity.


I still continue to work from home, which as I’ve written before, is preferable for me, as it is for others. Admittedly it’s been a strange winter, full of ups and downs, but I did start the year full of energy with a new set of resolutions. The main one was to walk 1000 miles in the year. I know a few people having a go at this one and I, for one, am thoroughly enjoying it. I cover enough miles anyway with running, but walking is an obvious different pace, enabling me to notice more and spend more time outdoors. Nine weeks in, and I’m going strong. It’s great to take advantage of not spending three hours a day commuting. I can finish work at the kitchen table, put on my shoes and coat and step out for an hour or too. I spend all day alone, but it’s a different alone. The alone that’s coupled with the heart rate-raising ping of a new email, an out-of-the-blue video call on top of the tribulations of a day job. The alone I get on my walk is a relaxed alone. I can process what’s happened during the day, prepare for what might happen tomorrow, listen to music or a podcast or just walk in silence allowing my thoughts to run riot before naturally settling.


Originally, last autumn when I decided I was going to attempt the walking challenge this year, I began walking in the morning before work. This was mainly because I felt quite stressed and thought it was a great way to calm everything down before switching on my computer. It didn’t really work out that way. Instead, I’d arrive home, and within five minutes all the walk would be undone. I would then finish the day by going for a run, meaning, more often than not, I would be energised later in the evening. So I switched it around in January. The change has been overwhelming. Much more fired up ready to tackle all the crap of the day, and able to wind down in the evening. I’ve always preferred morning runs anyway, so it should have been obvious, but routines and habits have all changed in the last twelve months.


I hope you all have things or people in your lives at the moment, keeping you going, inspiring you and driving you along. If you haven’t got one or the other, or neither, try and do something about it. It’s never too late to write a list of whom or where you want to be and think about how to get there. It’s amazing how motivating it can be. Feel free to get in touch and we can do it together.

Stay safe, stay motivated, stay honest to yourself.

To insanity, and beyond!

As the torch light flickered, the woodland track ahead of me flickered too, in and out of the darkness. I looked down at the map. My thumb placed strategically where I was. All around me I could hear absolutely nothing. The occasional rustle, but no cars, no people, no running water, nothing. I knew I was in last place. Bringing up the rear, alone in the woods in the dark, trying to make checkpoint 4. “About 6 miles to go”,  I said to myself, already knowing I was slowly grinding to a halt on anything more than a slight uphill slope. Barely five minutes ago, I had stumbled up a practically vertical climb where I had to stop at the top and sit down. The only positive from that was looking down across the expanse of darkness below over to the twinkling lights of a nearby town, wondering who was still awake, who was looking up at the hill wondering what that light was, moving around. A hundred thoughts went through my mind. Why was I struggling? Was I failing? Just what would Jesus do?? I thought about my support team, loved ones, friends, the charity I was running for. I dug deep – seriously deep. Alas, however, at 12.55am, after 47 miles, I had to retire from the race.

I have never not finished a race, either as a runner, tabber or cyclist. It was therefore unfathomable to me that despite my best efforts, I’d not made it to half way. Here, I could list all the reasons and theories why. To some they would sound like excuses, to others, legitimate reasons. This isn’t an investigation, a witch hunt of sorts though, so I’m going to look at it from the other end, which luckily, many of my fans have.

My initial thoughts were that I had not even made it half way. In reality I had almost ran two very hilly marathons back-to-back. Now, this year has been very strange, and a lot has happened to me. One of the big things that has happened is that I have found a little support network in unconventional places, and not necessarily from people already in my life. The wave of support from all these people surprised me and saved my mind from visiting some iffy places. One such message of support came from Krister, the subject of a blog post whom I met on a previous ultra marathon. He had a similar experience attempting a 100-mile race where he had to retire. He started by congratulating me on not finishing. Interesting perspective. His view was that it showed I had pushed through and shown strength in doing so. I really hadn’t thought of it like that. Very refreshing. A vital thought process for us all. The first port of call for most is feelings of failure.

The other positive from this event was my on-the-day support. Two of my oldest school friends came to support me from the word go. A friend whom I’ve ran and cycled a lot with over the years and fellow ultra marathoner also surprised me at the second checkpoint. Biggest of all though was my partner and her kids. The biggest change of all this year has been meeting someone who, for some reason, loves me unconditionally. She’s never far away and just radiates support despite the fact that these events I do are a tad insane. When I was approaching checkpoint one, which was at the top of a pretty meaty hill, I was, as most of the time, thinking about her and the kids. Then, all of a sudden, her eldest daughter sprang into view and leapt and bounded down the hill towards me. The first thing I did was ask her to pinch me to check I was actually there and not unconscious under some hedge a few miles back. Once at the top, my two friends were there, and the youngest daughter. I started to jog, and passed a photographer. When the photos became available, one in particular summed up the day and my life nowadays. There I was, in focus, running. Behind me were four people and a dog, rooting for me, supporting me and wanting me to succeed. The only person missing was my partner, but naturally, she was at the feed station getting food ready for me. I can honestly say, as she and the kids stayed with me until my 1am retirement, I would not have made it that far without her.

It was at checkpoint one that the phrase that forms the title of this blog first appeared. The eldest girl remarked that the colours on my vest of the charity I was running for made me look like Buzz Lightyear. So, as I stood up, after thirteen miles, to attempt the next stretch in hot conditions, I exclaimed, “To insanity, and beyond!” Not exactly a million miles away from the truth.