race

I ran 555km!

Last summer I decided to do something different… to run every day that I was in Europe. This meant 55 days straight, with the aim of clocking 555km. The adventure started as soon as I touched down at Amsterdam airport. As I loaded my family and luggage into the taxi, I tightened my laces, waved goodbye and got started…

I ran mostly on trails, away from tarmac and cars, away from the concrete jungle and urban surrounds. It wasn’t about clocking mileage… more about the spirit of adventure… about exploration, about discovery, about checking out new sights and sounds in my running shoes. I relish the simple things that life has to offer, like drinking water from source, smelling fields full of flowers, breathing in fresh mountain air, enjoying the sunrise, watching cows graze, picking berries and chasing wildlife. I pretty much always returned to base long after I’d promised my wife…

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I’ll be honest though. It was a push to run every day. Trying to fit running time in with family time and a pretty ad hoc holiday schedule didn’t come easy but often the runs that started with a “because I have to” attitude, turned out to be the most awesome.

My biggest fear throughout was getting injured and a pretty serious ankle injury lingering from last summer acted as a strong reminder to be cautious. The key, I think, was to build up slowly mileage-wise and hit the rocky trails with respect. Thankfully, my body didn’t let me down. Towards the end of the summer as my runs got longer, there was little or no time for recovery. At the start of the last few early morning runs, I felt like a stiff, old man but once my body warmed up, I loosened up and fell into a nice rhythm. Lesson for next time? More yoga in between.

I got lost multiple times, ran out of water, got caught out by darkness and was attacked by dogs. I ran in the mountains, got to the top of Mount Ventoux, turned around and raced back down, played around the Matterhorn, ran through farmlands, across rivers and amongst vineyards and fruit farms. I ran races, with a hangover once or twice and shared runs with friends, family (always a highlight) and with strangers. I clocked up some insane elevation gain, enjoyed an awesome night run in Switzerland, upset mountain bikers by running on their tracks, got soaked in the rain and found myself bruised, cut and chaffed in all manner of places. Need I mention that I loved it all?

Wk.

 

Memorable runs

My love for running really took off when I moved to Dubai in 2002. It all started with my first half marathon in Abu Dhabi. Marathons and triathlons followed then eventually I discovered that my true passion lay in long distance trail running. There are so many reasons to love trail running. I love exploring new places. Nothing beats heading off in a random direction and just discovering where the path takes you. Trail running also unites interesting people and amazing places. On longer solo runs, I get to munch on business topics; my keynote at World Art Dubai came together during the 30k night rebel race. There’s alot to be said for using solitude to feed your creativity.

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These are my top most memorable runs over the years:

> My best run last summer was with my friend Ilonka, who runs a mountain lodge in the France Alps. We both love alpine runs and got up early one morning to hit the mountains. I don’t own any cold weather running gear and can remember it was a bitterly cold start in just shorts and a light fleece at 5am. Still dark, we used our head torches to wind through the forest trails, past little mountain village Narreyroux and on to Col du Bal. Running on the high ridges with spectacular views and fresh mountain air is when I’m in my element. These are truly magical moments.

> A run filled with anxiety and excitement… or perhaps more an escape run! I fled my parents house back in 2003 to run free. It was my wedding day and the house was full of family and friends… it felt like chaos and I just needed to get out there on my own. I enjoyed an amazing run through the forest and remember feeling so free.

> Day seven of the Gobi March, a 250k self supported running race in remote China. Day seven marked the final stretch to the finish line and I can remember running the entire way, despite the blisters, aching limbs and immense fatigue. Running through the Flaming Mountains and ending at a Buddhist village made for an incredible setting. It was pretty much all downhill at that point. Crossing that finishing line came with such immense relief and pride before receiving the biggest medal ever. I felt on top of the world.

> A memorable run to be that remains in the pipeline will be a dash with one my boys, either in a competition or just a run down the street. Having seen other dads during that proud moment of first running with their sons, I can’t wait to do so with my own.

> Living in Dubai means living pretty much in the desert. In just a 30min drive, you can hit spectacular dunes which make for perfect training ground. Running in soft sand builds character, turns a run into a serious workout and requires a decent sense of navigation. Followed by setting up camp with the family, these runs can turn into a really fun weekend. I remember one run not far from Bab al Shams, when off I started, with a loaded pack at the usual crazy hour and there, beautifully lit by the early morning sun, was a stunning white Arabian Oryx. It was perhaps only 100m away, staring intensely at me… probably wondering what on earth I was doing… for what seemed an age. I stood still, staring back at him and then he just dashed off. And so did I.

Wk.