3000 miles: The first quarter

I was in denial. If I didn’t tell anyone, it wouldn’t matter. But I started recording my miles anyway, you know – just to see. That was enough, that was my commitment. I am supporting Cricket Without Boundaries this year, by fundraising and volunteering. I needed a challenge and covering 3000 miles on foot or by bicycle seemed impossible and therefore at the right level for me to have a go at, to see what happens and to use as a hook to ask for sponsorship/donations.

A double parkrun on 1 January got me off to a good start. A couple of weeks later, I entered some running races – a couple of half marathons. Ordinarily this would be no big deal for me. This year, it gave me something to talk about, something to train for and I had a bigger reason for doing it. Since 2005, CWB has worked on 60 projects in 9 African countries. Over 250,000 children have been coached and received valuable, life changing messages about health and especially HIV. Over 3,500 adults have been trained as ICC accredited coaches to support cricket development. I want to help this work to continue.

By the end of January, I was feeling happy about things. The number of miles I was covering (running, supplemented by walking) was increasing. I was training with people aiming for a spring marathon and by the end of the month I had run further in a week than I had ever before and covered nearly 50 miles that week.

February rolled on and I got a cold. I managed a few walks and reality hit home. This is a big challenge. I hadn’t met my target number of miles once. But I couldn’t do much about it till I was feeling better. This didn’t take long. I was still feeling fit and I threw in a couple of big runs. I also entered my first ultra-marathon that would happen in April. It didn’t matter about time, it mattered that I did it to add a fabulous 37 miles to my target. A little bit of sun and warmth meant that I ventured into my shed and was reassured that my bicycle was still there. I dusted off the cobwebs and tested it out a couple of times. Nothing too far. I still had to focus on my running: training for an ultra involves a lot of running!

March appeared and the feeling of Spring. I was feeling good about putting in a good time for my half marathons. Except my body gave me some strong messages that this wasn’t going to happen. Three weeks out with a back injury meant I didn’t run the half marathons, that my whole aim of 3000 miles was in jeopardy and I had no idea how I would get round this fundraising hurdle. But in the present moment, there was nothing I could do (except lie on the floor watching House of Cards). The focus on recovery meant I did things properly and was back out running again. Starting slowly – the achievement of running 1 mile, properly, with no shuffling felt so good.

So I’m back on track. I still haven’t reached target miles in any one week, I’m behind schedule, but I’m still committed. I’ve consistently run further in a week, I’m using my car less and I’m looking forward to cycling more. There’s a long way to go and your support would be gratefully received. Please donate here. If 3000 miles represents a straight line to central Africa, I’ve currently got as far as Lyon in France….

For those interested in the stats, in the first 3 months of 2017 I’ve:

Run: 304 miles

Walked: 125 miles

Cycled: 19 miles

Total: 448 miles

 

 

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3000 miles: The Fox

In truth, I’d been wanting to test the waters with a running distance longer than a marathon for some time. So when a race was launched that started and finished in my home town, I felt it was a sign.  It also gave me an excuse to do lots of running and rack up some miles for my 3000 miles total.

The only thing I knew about ultra-running was that you go slowly and you eat cake. This sounded like excellent preparation. The Fox Ultra was in April, which is perfect for being able to find training partners who are ramping up for spring marathons. I found myself a schedule for a similar distance and started following it; sort of. I’m an experienced marathon runner so I tend to think that at some point, muscle memory will kick in and I can keep going. After a couple of long runs, I was beginning to doubt this though.

My training led to me running more miles in a week than I’d ever done, which inevitably led to fatigue, but thankfully no injuries. Until I rolled up my yoga mat one morning and my back kind of popped. This wasn’t good. I lay on the floor for a couple of days. I had some treatment from an osteopath. I had to admit that I couldn’t run the first half marathon I had pencilled in as training. I would probably be ready for the one I had scheduled the week after though: speed didn’t matter, as long as I could make it round. The days ticked over, more treatment, still not walking properly, still can’t sit down comfortably and failing on my “fitness to run test” (can I put my socks on without some sort of contortion). So another DNS – I may have been able to shuffle round the course, but I couldn’t actually sit in the car for long enough to get there.

I decided that my priority had to be to get to the start line for the Fox, so I gave myself another week to recover. That left me a month to build up and then taper down my running distance. I started with 1 mile, and went from there.

Fortunately running became easier and I managed to fit in a 30 mile week, alongside lots of stretching and back mobility exercises.

The week of the run came round very quickly. A couple of days before I was feeling a bit strange. I realized that I was feeling nervous. This event was something new, that I didn’t know if I could do, and I’d told a whole heap of people who had generously donated and were waiting to find out how I did.

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20km in, munching on carrot sticks

Fortunately the race started early so there was no hanging around! The route takes runners on a 60km (37 miles) loop around Guildford, taking in the best of the Surrey countryside. Despite worrying about getting lost, I managed to only make a slight detour from the well-marked out route. The feed stations appeared when they were supposed to. I felt like giving up between 35 and 45km. I felt like giving up a lot during that period, but I knew I was running for a good cause, so stopping just wasn’t an option. The downhills were more painful than the uphills in the last 20km, but finally I was back on familiar territory and I knew that I would make the finish.

What can I say? It’s a long way. It’s hard work. I kept remembering why I’d entered: to raise awareness and funds for a super-cool charity. It’s the kind of distance where people ask you “WHY?” I had a good answer. Cricket Without Boundaries uses cricket to deliver crucial health and social messages working across sub-Saharan Africa tackling HIV, FGM and more.

If you can make a donation, it will help me to recover a bit more quickly so I can catch up on my 3000 miles target. There’s still a long way to go and you really will make a difference – to me, to one of the many children I’ll be coaching in Uganda and to the world in general.

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3000 miles: the why

It’s well into an October evening. I’ve just finished an interview for my website (which you can find here, if you’re interested) and a final question is ringing in my ears. Unexpectedly, it was one that was asked of me: Why don’t you volunteer?

Simple.

I’ll think about it, I’d said. To the trained ear, this is code for there’s no way I can do it, there are so many reasons why not.

I have a trained ear, mostly for other people, but nowadays more so for myself as well. I went through my reasons in my head, dismissed all but one of them as excuses and almost immediately decided that I would volunteer. The one that stuck: fundraising. I can barely ask people for money for the work I do, when I’ve genuinely earned it. To ask people to donate to a good cause, when there are so many around… how am I ever going to do this?

I needed a challenge. Something that was ultimately do-able, but was something that I’m wavering on whether it was possible for me. As soon as the idea came to me, I immediately tried to forget I’d thought of it, I tried to push it from my mind. A sure sign that it is the right target to choose.

It went something like this. So, how far is Africa from London? Now, Africa’s a big continent and I didn’t know exactly where I’d be volunteering, so I picked on of the countries: Cameroon (probably the closest, thereby making things a bit more manageable). Roughly speaking, in a direct line, Cameroon is 3000 miles from London. I am going to run, walk or cycle 3000 miles in a calendar year.

To break it down, that’s roughly 58 miles a week. I’m a runner, that’s a long way, but I’m fairly active so I can walk to places. I’m not a cyclist. Yes, I have a bike, but it only comes out in fair weather and usually only for a few miles to get into town if I think parking might be tricky. This will have to change. This is a challenge for me.

A little bit more about the why. Cricket without Boundaries (CWB)is a charity that combines many of my passions. Most importantly using sport to give benefits that are more far-reaching than for physical fitness: maintaining and teaching a sense of play, learning life lessons and how to be in a team. CWB work in sub-Saharan Africa to use cricket to deliver important health and social education messages around HIV prevention, female genital mutilation and inclusion. Volunteers coach children over two week periods, and also coach local coaches so that this education can become sustainable.

If you think this is a good cause, that by donating, you could help a child develop skills and live their life to the fullest, then please do here. That child could change the world. You can change the world.

Thank you.

 

 

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When in Japan…visit Italy

“This is mad!” I couldn’t count the number of times that this thought ran through my mind on my short trip to Japan.

It was autumn in Hakone National Park. This is a mecca for autumn colours and promised views of Mount Fuji. I had my instructions on how to get to the ryokan where I was staying and this left me slightly on edge. I was happy with the first part – bullet train from Tokyo. But then there was a bus involved. How do you know if they’re going to stop? When do you know you’re at the right stop? How far is it between stops, should you get off too soon? Or too late?

I needn’t have worried (as is often the case) – public transport in Japan is almost impossible to get wrong. Signs and announcements in both English and Japanese and the right bus stop for me was never in doubt.

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Glass tree, Hakone

After the compulsory tour  through the autumn colours to see the clouds and mist that hid Mt Fuji, I had a spare day to fill. I decided to visit the Venetian Glass Museum. Nothing is done in half measures  and this was like stepping into little Italy. A combination of Italian flamboyance with Japanese precision. There was beauty everywhere – even when it seemed impossible – the trinkets, the gardens, the glass trees – madness!

And that’s what’s so great about Japan. The impossible becomes possible. Anything goes, even when you least expect it. Especially when you least expect it. From vending machines up mountains and at beauty spots; to pirate ships steaming across a lake in the national park.

And as a visitor it works. Don’t worry that you can’t read the language, or that in cities they don’t really have addresses. You’ll find a warm welcome and have a wonderful time.

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Once in a lifetime

There’s something about being out in nature that speeds up the relaxing and letting go process. If you tune in to nature around you, it seems easier to settle into a rhythm that allows you to shut off at the end of the day.  To celebrate the day at sunset, enjoying the view and finding your small place in the world amongst everything else.  And by this, I mean the trees, the animals, the weather: no self-inflicted stress, just necessary reactions to the environment.

These thoughts came to me as I was enjoying a sundowner on Morgan’s Rock, overlooking the Triple B ranch in South Africa’s Waterberg plateau. There was nothing to worry about.  There is nothing to worry about.  Just assess the situation, react and let it go.

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View from Morgan’s Rock

The day began with a ride over Hippo Dam, through a little village and back along the sandy tracks amongst the buffalo thorn trees. Tuning in to my horse’s movement, being aware of the other animals silently watching us and getting better at recognising the flora and fauna round and about.

Time to relax over lunch, feeling the heat of the day and seeking shade on the stoep allows you to figure out the important things. Not the urgent things that the media are trying to tell you are important.

And back to the animals, a steady ride to get the blood pumping, spotting game in their natural routine: feeding, communicating, safety. That’s what’s important. In human terms you can have that too: a cool drink, with a magnificent view, good company and lots of laughter.

This could be a once in a lifetime opportunity: horse riding in a game park in South Africa – I’m hoping it won’t be.

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A day in Amsterdam

I found myself in Amsterdam with about 8 hours to kill before meeting up with colleagues for some pre-work before an all day meeting the next day.

It was November, the sky was grey and it was cold.  But, as is my way, I didn’t let this put me off and I started out to explore the city. I got the train from the airport to the main station and set off towards the museum quarter. There was a big, busy main road that I followed for most of the way pausing only to navigate several sets of roadworks which involved pedestrian as well as vehicle diversions.

It was then, that my navigational skills temporarily deserted me. I declared myself lost and decided to create a loop to get back in the direction of the station. As part of the loop I spied a bridge over a park, and I descended into what turned out to be the Vondelpark – the largest city park in Amsterdam. If I’m going to gravitate to any particular area of a city, more often than not it will be towards green spaces.

Fortunately my route in the park took me past a clear map board so I could identify where I was and reset my navigation back towards the museums. I made it and headed to the Stedelijk – the state museum of art, filled with modern ions of design and different forms of art. I didn’t want the scale of the Rijksmuseum and felt that the van Gogh museum would be a little cliched. And I wasn’t disappointed – the Stedelijk is a combination of contemporary design, art and sculpture curated in a bright, balanced building. Refreshed at the onsite cafe, I felt ready to wrap up and head out again.

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The Swing Bridge, Amsterdam

I planned my route to take in some of the other sites of the city and wound my way back to the station alongside the canals. It gave me a feel of the history of the city as a trading port and was a pretty choice with plenty of photo stops.

It’s always worth taking the scenic route. Sometimes it’s the quickest way to get you back on track and you can focus on the journey whilst getting to your destination.

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Budget travel

So many people are put off travelling because they think they can’t afford it.  I had a chat with my travel-wise friend to get some tips on lower budget travel.

When you’re currently half way through a 4 month jaunt around Europe, you’ve picked up a useful routine and have things mostly figured out.  Add this to many years running hostels in Australia and you have a bit of a story to tell about the practicalities of travelling.

This is a bit of a cross-over post from my other blog.  if you’re interested in other stories to inspire you to do things you thought you never could, head on over to Doing not Dreaming Life 

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