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Monthly Archives: February 2015

Sat at the traffic lights I was crossing was a monster, a red giant, filled with commuting minions all crowing at me in disgust at my Lycra clad form, Bus 9 – the arch nemesis of UltraBoy. I stopped, crouched down a little and waited for the lights to turn in his favour and then we both set off.

It started last week when I was looking to do some speedier running, rebuild the pace that has been slowly but surely deserting me. The number 9 bus runs from Hammersmith (work) to Charing Cross (commute to station) it’s about 8.45km and a bit more for me as I’ve got to get to the start line. It wasn’t planned but as I was stood there looking at it I decided that I could probably get to my station faster than the bus could.

As the lights turned the bus set off, unaware it was now in a race. There was no point in me sprinting past it as it would only overtake me and i’d be burning up precious energy. The bus therefore slid out of view and headed towards Olympia. In my favour the bus had to stop for passengers and as it made its first scheduled stop I did hit the afterburner – if I could stay ahead here that would be amazeballs. Sadly the driver dipped ahead and the traffic lights were in his favour. I smiled at the bus conductor and he returned it, perhaps he knew I was racing the bus?

As we reached Olympia my feet picked up and I caught my nemesis who had gotten caught behind some cyclists and I was able to push on – this would be vital in the race as the section up toward Kensington High Street would be a fast section for him and slow for me if traffic was coming in and out of the side roads.

I arrived at his next stop first but there was only 1 person waiting so it was a quick stop for him. I was dodging in and out of pedestrians and leaping as quickly as possible over the roads – but as we reached the Kensington Odeon I felt it was all over – he broke infront of me and I had no response. 

Unburdened by the fact I had lost I started to improve my form, increase my speed and even open my stride out and in a strange twist I saw the conductor again – I’d  caught them and both of us now faced heavier traffic and traffic light problems – but I had the lead. 

Bye bye Urban Outfitters, adios Kensington Gardens, I was off. ‘MeeMeep’ I cried as I thrust myself through the throng of onlookers. One foot after another, one stride after another – go faster – the incline up out of Kensington past the Albert Hall would mean he’ll probably catch me and then on the downhill to KnightsBridge it would all be over because the roads are clear. 

I glanced over my shoulder at the arrivals board on the next bus stop – 9, ‘due’. I reached the edge of Hyde Park and knew that I could use the downhill for speed. Movescount records me striding down here at more than 21km per hour (inadvisable given my glute status). I was flying and the bus was a distant memory. In my head I was setting new targets ‘stay ahead to Piccadilly’ and as I ground my way up to Hyde Park Corner I could see the twinkle of the bus far away. 

At Piccadilly we would both get caught in traffic again and as I purposefully banged down and up the steps of the underpass at Hyde Park Corner I could smell victory (as well as urine, well it is an underpass!)

The Ritz… I was still in the lead, glancing over my shoulder I could just about make out what I thought was my rival. From here it would be impossible to catch me, I had the advantage in the way traffic flowed but with my race face on I wanted to see if I could run faster.

Trafalgar Square… still leading. Sprint finish? Why not. Zoom zoom I went and came to a halt outside the little Mexican Buritto place and then I waited. 

Several minutes passed before my number 9 went past me but go past me it did, probably blissfully unaware of what had just happened to it. I’d won, but the real win is how I felt afterwards and that was amazing.

I did wonder if I was lucky so I did it again last night – it’s now 2-0 to Ultraboy

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It’s a funny thing this Twitterverse, I love the democracy of it, the sharing and the learning. I Iove the entertainment value of it and I find it alarmingly amusing. I also really enjoy the togetherness it brings, I’ve very much enjoyed meeting lots of the tweeters I follow and sometimes you’re even fortunate enough to get to know the people and form lasting friendships.

But what Twitter doesn’t do is give followers a real insight to my real life, the person I was, am or will be. UltraBoyRuns is a character, a sweary, annoying, supportive, arsehole type of character and for those that interact with him I hope we all have a cheery enough time. Twitter connections are fun, but they have, for the most part, limits. Obviously, occasionally my real personality will slip out on subjects like politics, mental health, ethics or something else dear to my heart but I can’t articulate the full nature of myself on complex subjects in 160 characters and if I could I suspect I’d be an idiot. My Twitter me isn’t the complete me and I’m sure the same can be said for most users of this very open social media platform.

Interestingly, I adopt a very similar approach in real life, those who meet me are given a version of me, much like we all do I suspect, but I will give out anecdotes and more personal information where I deem it necessary. To point the spotlight on an example of how private I can be – I chose not to inform my workplace or my colleagues (at my previous employer) that my partner was pregnant, I considered this a private matter and therefore not the concern of my colleagues or employer. However, there have been occasions in the last few months where personal information I have shared has been used as a gossiping point. Where information I have shared on Twitter has been used in the real world as a commentary to my skill as a runner, as a designer, as a guide to my tenacity and to make judgements as to the person I am. 

People are entitled to their opinion but when it gets back to me that this is happening and you’re attempting to influence others opinion of me – well you’ve made a mistake, a big fucky type of mistake because in reality I’m an angry, raging, bastardy type of person with few redeeming features and I despise those who need to live their lives through other people’s personality and/or achievements.

To make it clear, if you’ve read this piece then the chances are it wasn’t you who has been irking me, this is one individual who couldn’t respect the idea that conversations do not need to be spread. So, despite this, I doubt I’ll change being the person I am but I thought it would be interesting to share this rather personal insight in such a public way. Happy Wednesday.

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I really happy to see that ‘those girls can’ no matter their body shape, size, age, hair colour or lifestyle. I’m pleased that we are encouraging women to take part in sport and get active, stay fit and live longer. I’m extremely happy that there is a small pocket of the universe that is an antidote to negative female body imaging stereotypes and I’m impressed that lots of people are on board with it. Perhaps the thing that it’s done best is open up the conversation about female activity and self worth.

They describe it as, ‘This Girl Can celebrates the women who are doing their thing no matter how they do it, how they look or even how sweaty they get. They’re here to inspire us to wiggle, jiggle, move and prove that judgement is a barrier that can be overcome.’

However, I’m a man and an active man and I suffer with poor body image and low self esteem especially when confronted with my sporting peers. Does this seem ridiculous to you? I mean I’ve run over a dozen ultra marathons, countless other races, I was the regular fastest finisher at my Sweatshop 5km and I’ve even taken well to outdoor swimming. But I fear the judgement of my peers, who lets be honest, don’t care what I look like or where I finish, but can I defeat that negativity and self destructiveness? I’m struggling to do so.

As is the problem with a poor body image and low self esteem, as much as I can rationalise it to myself here I can’t turn that into something I can use. So I’m always looking for ways to keep my weight under control, avoid form fitting clothing, avoid full body photography, the list goes on. It might surprise readers to learn that I often hear myself say ‘I’m too fat to run’

It might be sexist to suggest that men don’t talk about this but I believe that to be relatively true-which is probably why the ‘this girl can’ campaign wasn’t a little more inclusive to those of us ‘who can’ wiggle, jiggle and move but are still constantly fighting an uphill battle despite being men.

So keep up the good work ‘This Girl Can’ but remember there’s a whole other gender that might also benefit from your support. Just saying.

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‘I’m wishing I’d taken a dump before we left’ I said
‘You’ve got all of natures own glorious toilet here mate’ came the reply from the ever practical Mick.

I’m not a bear I thought – I’m not shitting in the woods.

I shan’t be reviewing the Vigo Runners Valentine Trail this year as you can read last years report here but I will draw up a list of points as to why this is a race you all need to add to your running CV.

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1. The starting gun is a cannon
2. It’s a small local race that attracts runners from far and wide
3. The first trail section is, narrow, wet, muddy and filled with opportunity to cover yourself in crap
4. There are technical sections
5. The downhills are ‘fuck me’ fast
6. The uphills are knee grinders
7. This is the perfect race for your Inov8 Roclite
8. The medal was both a bottle opener and the shape of a cock
9. This is one of the friendliest, craziest races I’ve ever competed in
10. This will once again compete for my race of the year – it is that good!

Now before I go I’d like to draw attention that this year I made the mistake of going out onto the trail without having completed my need for a number 2! Yes it’s true I had already been twice that morning but clearly something was afoot and more appropriately, amiss. At mile 2 I clenched my buttocks and by mile 8 I knew I was in serious trouble. I think I might have stopped running and waddled home had it not been for the fact the quicker I got back the quicker I could get to a loo. Thankfully I pressed hard for my finish and even harder for the loo. I’d made it – but there was no doubt in my mind that my toilet need had affected both my running and my time. Hohum.

The lesson, fellow runners, make sure you’ve had your number 2 before you set off. Or don’t attend a race with my running buddy Mick, as every time we rock up to the same race I get a case of the galloping trots! Mick, have you been putting laxative in my tea? Bastard.

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The Night Before
‘Burrito please’ I said as the lady behind the counter inquired as to the nature of my order. It had been a pretty lousy week for running and exercise in general – just 13.1 cruddy miles and I was now off to Bristol which I had assumed would offer no real running fun. So, on Friday evening before I set off for Bristol I chowed down on a big fat dirty Burrito.

Bristol
I arrived in Bristol to be greeted by the lovely Lynne and her partner in crime Anna – met up with my own partner The GingaNinga and of course UltraBaby. Despite the lateness of the hour I had mentioned to Lynne that there was an event called ‘ParkRun’ that she could join, with some trepidation she agreed to join me and between us we figured out which was the closest and most accessible of the runs – it turned out to be Ashton Court.

ParkRun
Now the name Ashton Court had me imagining some large council owned tower block out of Only Fools and Horses so when we pulled up about a kilometre from the start I was rather surprised to see that there was nothing but lush greenery and hills.

Vilma
Behind us another car pulled in and out stepped what you might describe as a senior lady, ‘are you going to the ParkRun?’ she inquired.

We all headed up together and Vilma turned out to be a little treasure trove of information about this ParkRun and bit about her own story. I got the felling that Vilma was a bit of a character at this event. She described this as quite a small event, about 300 runners (small I thought???). Anyway Vilma helped us find a loo, we chatted some more and then we lost her but Lynne and I mingled and introduced ourselves to lots of runners – it was an incredibly friendly atmosphere.

We went along for the newbies chat, Lynne as a first timer and me as a tourist. Our run leader was a very pleasant gentleman and kept the party mood going with a bit of banter.

Being a nice, cool and crisp morning meant it was ideal conditions for running and I’d be listening to tales of a 2.5km hill and then a 2.5km hill down, in ideal conditions this could be fun.

‘What’s your normal 5km time?’ I asked
’34, 35 minutes… came the reply’
I said I’d pace to make sure that’s what we ran but in all honesty I knew that Lynne would benefit from a PB on a potentially tough course with a fast finish.

The crowd gathered and Lynne turned and said ‘we should have started at the back…’
‘People will go round us, concentrate on yourself,’ was my reply and one that was reinforced politely by a lady who turned and smiled at us.

Run
I’d never seen Lynne run so she could have been really crap but actually she had great form and a steady pace. I ran a few metres ahead offering gentle words of encouragement as we pushed up the hill. Because we weren’t going near my normal 5km pace I decided I’d make a few jokes and had a few laughs with some of the runners we were passing.

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Then a tight left turn and onto the final ascent, here I insisted we start targeting runners. ‘Girl, green top, blonde hair, ridiculous leggings – let’s have her’ we started passing people.

Downhill
We reached the halfway point at the top of the hill and I asked how Lynne was going

‘Fine’

And then I put my plan into action. I had 30 minutes in my head and I pressed a bit harder, targeting runners, not letting Lynne lose sight of me. We briefly saw the lovely Vilma again and (the previously unmentioned but awesome) Craig (we waved).

Then it was race time ‘Breathe deeply, stay in control, don’t let your body just flip down the hill – push’ I said, ‘see that woman she’s our next target…’

Sprinting
Then a young girl sprinted past me, I laughed, turned to Lynne and gave her the thumbs up – she was on fire. The young lady however, needed teaching a lesson, and I was in a giving mood!

‘You’re quick!’ I shouted as I sprinted past her
‘My second ParkRun!’ She hurled at me as she thundered past.
‘You’re doing great, but I can’t let you beat me…’ and with that I hit the afterburner ‘…c’mon Lynne – faster’

250metres to go – woman in blue, going to a sub30 finish – she had maybe 80metres to go – uphill. I apologised as I blasted past her but I was feeling fun.

Awesomundo
I crossed the line, feeling better than I have in ages and then waited for Lynne. Each second felt a lifetime and then I saw her and she had stepped infront of the sprinting teenager. Holy shit she’s going to make it!!! Mere inches separated them but she had done it and in a very respectable time too.

Lynne collapsed to the floor, I think moaning about the level of energy she had just expended but she was ecstatic.

Cup of tea was now in order. Yum

So…
What can I say to make you attend this run? Well…

1. What a course, amazing – one of the best 5km routes I’ve ever done
2. Super friendly
3. Great facilities
4. Great views of Bristol
5. Well attended
6. Outstanding volunteers

As a final note I’d like to say thank you to Vilma for the note she left us on the car (if you know her and see her this week please pass on my best wishes). It’s that level of friendliness that makes me want to go back to this run or perhaps more importantly – try another one 🙂

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Thanks to Rich Kenington for the second of this posts photographs!

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I was looking down at my bruised and battered OMM 25litre commuting bag recently thinking ‘it might be time to retire you my faithful old companion’. The elasticated cord on one side is gone, the other worn, one of the belt pockets has a hole in it and the webbing on one of the side stuff pockets is definitely the worse for wear. On the inside it looks tired – fabric that has been pulled and stretched in all directions and generally covered in sweat, blood and tears from dozens of races and thousands of miles. Strangely though it never gives up and my OMM bag reminds me a bit of my running journey.

1. We both started shiny and new in late 2011
2. We both started running just 3.24km per day until we worked our way up the White Cliffs 50 Ultra.
3. We both carry far too much stuff everywhere we go
4. We both look a bit the worse for wear

Late in 2014 I seriously considered retiring from running completely because of injury and my own stupid behaviour but much like with my much loved OMM running bag it just wasn’t time to enter the great running club house in the sky. I had the thought that it could be one last ‘hurrah’ a final year of running the ultra distance but as The GingaNinja reminds me ‘you become unbearable when you’re not running’. And I am unbearable at the best of times. So there can be no ‘last hurrah’ if running is what helps make me bearable!!

In hindsight I’ve come a long way in a little under four years I’ve gone from geeky designer and all round uncool dude to unbearable and geeky uncoolio ultra running designer. From not being able to run 5km without wanting to puke to going 104miles in a single hit and then back again.

It’s true that running has been my most frustrating time but it’s also been my best time and my strongest ally. I’ve improved my fitness, my interactions, my willpower, my energy and everything else – maybe that’s why my life is infinitely more settled today than when I wasn’t running. Running for fun rather than running from life?

So when I look at my OMM running pack and I see a piece of kit that’s had the shit kicked out of it I actually think, ‘what a ride’ not ‘poor bag’.

Injury, apathy and lethargy will pass but running (or whatever you love) can stay with you and help provide direction. I think my message would be ‘don’t give up’

So how far have I come?
A very long way in the time since I started running.

How far have I fallen?
Just the odd stumble really.

Why do I persevere?
Because the person I’ve become in the period I’ve been running is better than the one I left behind and I’m not 100% sure it was all the running but i’m sure it played its part.

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