“Hard is trying to rebuild yourself, piece by piece, with no instruction book, and no clue where all the important bits are supposed to go.”
– Nick Hornby, A Long Way Down.
A lot can happen in a year. Some people have babies. Some people plan weddings. Some change jobs. Some plan business ventures. Some try and turn their health around. A year ago, I arrived on a school trip in the UK and brought a pair of Hokas, a pair of Asics Fuji Trabuco. I didn’t know just how far these shoes (not literally these shoes) would take me.
The journey that started on the 2nd of July, 2014 has been quite a path. This morning when I woke up I decided that I would look through my blog and see what has happened. For the last few months the blog has been nonexistent and lacking in everything. I wasn’t sure why – but I was keen to work it out.
A year ago, I struggled with a 3 km run around some of the fields at Tonbridge School. I struggled with motivation. I struggled with pace and endurance. Most of all I struggled with purpose. I didn’t really know why I was running. The story has always been that I started running because I was fed up of people talking about running so I wanted to go further that they did so they would shut up. I’m not entirely sure that was the case. I don’t think that was the purpose of my running.
“He was mastered by the sheer surging of life, the tidal wave of being, the perfect joy of each separate muscle, joint, and sinew in that it was everything that was not death, that it was aglow and rampant, expressing itself in movement, flying exultantly under the stars.”
– Jack London, The Call of the Wild
There is a saying that a person needs just three things to be truly happy in this world: someone to love, something to do, and something to hope for. I ticked off two of these for many years. I had someone to love. Actually I had more than one; my wife, my family and my dogs. I had something to hope for and Im going to be honest, I still do – a family. And although I do love my job, it wasn’t something that filled me with joy day in, day out. I loved it. But I needed something else. I needed something to really make me smile. I needed running. I needed hills. I needed trails.
In essence, I needed pain. I needed to feel that I was pushing myself beyond my capabilities. I needed to push my body till it felt like giving up. I needed to see just what I was capable of. I needed a challenge. I needed to make life a little bit more difficult. My life has never been simple. It never has been a journey of A to B. Un/Fortunately, it has been more a case of A to B via everything wrong turning, every car crash, every slippery road possible until you finally reach B. If this didn’t happen, I wouldn’t be the man I am now. In recent years, life has settled down. I am happily married to an amazing woman. I have an amazing job. I have three amazing dogs. I have an amazing flat. Everything is in the right place. However, the challenge is gone. This is where running slots in. It gives the edge. It gives the fear of failure. It gives the pain. It gives the overwhelming joy.
SO what has happened? Where was A and where is B? Where has the path taken me? When I sit and look back, it is all overwhelming to be honest. A year ago I struggled with 3 km. I was walking more than I was running. I was also a nice 95 kg. A 36/38 inch waist. A minimum of a 10+ pints a week. Unhealthy food. Lethargic and just not overly bothered.
Now, well I am massively healthier. Massively fitter. Massively lighter (79/80 kg). Massively happier. And when I say happiness – it isn’t just me. I feel that my relationship with my wife is getting better and better daily. With unhappiness and unhealthiness, you end up being a dick to people around you. In all honesty, I would say that this was impacting my marriage. It was slowly chipping away. At point B – it isn’t, so thats a result.
In terms of races, I haven’t done many.
The Lantau Vertical was my first ever trail race last September. It was horrendous and a massive kick up the ass. I needed to get myself in order. If I was going to run, I needed to take it seriously.
The Action Asia MSIG Hong Kong (24km) was next. A race that even now I loved. It was tough. The pain was there. It was the longest I had run on trail. This was a moment where I realised I could do this. I oculd run. I wouldn’t win but I would certainly beat myself.
Lantau 70 was next and I DNF’d. Something that even today I rate as the best thing that has ever happened to me. I ran to Tai O and decided I needed to be able to come back and run the following day. I needed to have confidence. Not been depressed due to failure.
Then the Vibram Hong Kong 100. Even now I look back and am slightly overwhelmed by this. I’m blown away. This was the initial goal. This was the moment. I smile when I remember parts of this. I smile when I remember the climb up Ma On Shan that brought me to tears and a dark place. I smile when I remember the pain of the blisters from sand in my shoes. I smile when I remember sitting on Needle Hill, head slumped down, wondering what on earth I was thinking. I smile when I remember sunrise on Tai Mo Shan. I smile when I remember seeing the finish line, seeing Michceala and Etienne waiting.
Then it was a two month period of semi depressed, semi fatigued mind. It was a struggle. I was meant to run the Translantau 50km with Michceala and didn’t. There wasn’t any purpose. There wasn’t any need. There certainly wasn’t any focus. Training was appalling and the effort was merely just ticking over.
After reading through the blog this morning and thinking things through – the mean reason for the lull was accountability. With the lull in running, came a lull in blogging. I wasn’t looking at Strava. I wasn’t writing. I wasn’t in a mode of let’s get this done.
Am I now? Only time will tell.
So this season’s plan:
26 September – UTMF STY (80.5km, 4610m elevation)
21 October – Ten Times Needle Hill (26km, 2600m elevation)
31 October – Lantau 70 (70km, 4000m elevation)
December – The North Face 50 (50km, 3075m elevation)
January – Vibram Hong Kong 100 (100km, 4500m elevation)
February – King Of The Hills: Sai Kung
March – Translantau 100 (100km, 5800m elevation)
April – Round The Island (62km)
The journey hasn’t just been about the physical running aspect. It hasn’t just been about being physically and mentally healthier. There has been the Race Director string added to the bow and this also included starting a business with three incredible people to put on more events (more of this soon). There has been the involvement in Gone Running – an online running store which I was asked to join and help. Then there has been the involvement in running a distribution company – looking after Tailwind Nutrition and Ferei Lighting – just two of a growing portfolio of products and brands.
If 18 months ago you asked the Steve who spent a lot of time in the Globe whether this would all be possible – I think we know what the answer would be. I sit here today and look back and realise that my journey to point B on the map hasn’t even started.