Sunday, 27 January 2013

Cancelled - The terrorists win

This last week, amid many emails between myself, John, Sandblast and various communities online and on facebook the Saharawi authorities have decided the postpone/cancel the marathon

Here is the official statement from the Sahara Marathon organisers:

"The Saharawi Government and the organizing committee of the Sahara Marathon have agreed to postpone the Sahara Marathon 2013 by major causes outside the organization. As is well known, the recent war in Mali and the tragic kidnapping occurred in Algeria, have caused a huge international social alarm that forced us to take this sad decision. Given the instability in the region and threats of further violence from terrorist groups against Western targets, the Saharawi government temporarily paralyzed all the visa processes and have repatriated all the displaced social workers. In these circumstances and knowing the diffusion of the Sahara Marathon in the media should be irresponsible to travel to Algerian territory with a group of nearly 200 runners from over 20 countries. Furthermore, most of these countries have made serious appeals to their citizens not to travel to the area.

Sahrawi and Algerian authorities have done a commendable job as far as security is concerned in recent months, but the organization ofa long distance race in these conditions required an enormous logistic and financial effort, which morally we cannot demand to a people surviving in refugees camps. With all the measures taken by the authorities, the goal is to avoid any risk to the solidary runners and Saharawi people themselves.
With the conviction that this instability in the area should be temporary, we hope to make soon a new call for the next Sahara Marathon, a race with a huge international reputation thanks to the support of the runners and the hospitality they receive from theSaharawi families. The organizers and the Sahrawi Ministry of Youth and Sports will go on with some actions to support the humanitarian projects of the Sahara Marathon. The first is the organization in the coming days of the children’s races and other local activities for major victims of this situation that are the Sahrawi refugees. Furthermore we will convene in different European cities charitable races under the umbrella of the Sahara Marathon, with the aim, among others, to raise funds to send a truck with all the sports equipment and solidarity that we have received. The great sadness that means for the team and for the runners who prepared the trip excited, cannot weaken our commitment and work to help these people and to demand the justice denied for 38 years to Western Sahara .
For you, who were registered to join us in this unique solidarity experience, we can only apologize for the inconvenience and disappointment that we know that this suspension entails, but we hope you can understand the situation created by these international events with unusual severity."

Obviously I'm very disappointed as I was really looking forward to going and spending a week with the refugees not to mention leaving me hanging mid-training.

Fortunately, the money we've raised already, and the laptop from Computers 4 Africa, will still go to help the Saharawi though I won't be there to see it being put to use, so thank you very much - your donations have not been wasted :-)

The terrorists have won.

They have stopped people from doing the things they really want to do. They are causing even more anguish for the Saharawi and we are left feeling useless and frustrated :-(

John and I are in the process of planning a marathon of our own and we will be keeping you posted and asking for your support as and when we know what we're doing, where and when. I can promise you though that we'll make it as anti-terrorist as possible :-p

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

Going Places and a bit about why I love running

When I was at school I hated running. When I was at bigger school, I still hated running and when I was at University... Yep. Hated it.

So where has this love of running come from? 

Whenever I try and answer that question, I find myself having to revisit why I hated it in order to do some kind of comparison and I apologise if this is a story I've told you before.

When I was between 8 and 13 I went to a very small school near Salisbury which, if the weather was too awful to play rugby or football used to make us do cross-country running.

The whole school. In the worst weather. For hours.

I was always cold and miserable and found the whole thing utterly pointless when I could have been inside playing any number of childhood games or otherwise getting into mischief such as exploring the enormous walk in safe to which no one knew the combination, or collecting and then dismantling various different types of batteries as part of the "battery club" I founded...

I think the real reason I hated running was that I'm genuinely not very good at it. Even when I had to play rugby, they put me as a prop and I was always the last one to a ruck or scrum. When we discover a talent for hockey, I was centre forward, so got to "goal hang" rather than galavant up and down the pitch like the the others.

I'm just not very good at running. Or perhaps more accurately - I wasn't.

These days I'm still not very fast at it and I'm fairly sure that ill never post a sub 3hr marathon time but I'm ok with that. To be honest, I'm not too sure how much I enjoy long distance running, but that may be because I'm training at the moment so each distance is progressively longer and all of them hurt.

The "Ah-Ha" Moment

When I started training for my first running based event, Tough Mudder, there was one particularly good "ah-ha" moment which is when I discovered another reason to love running aside from the fact it makes me feel good.

The ability to go places. Without the use of any kind of transport other than my legs, under my own steam.

My daughter has swimming lessons at a small pool about 4 miles from where I live so one summer afternoon I decided to run up to the pool, watch her swimming lesson and then run home. It was a lot further than I was running at the time, but I figured that I'd have an hour's rest in the middle.

Sure enough I got there and surprised and impressed my 5yo daughter, which I must confess pleased me enormously, and then ran back home afterwards. Running back, her mum drove her car alongside me a little way so that my daughter could shout encouraging comments such as:

"Come on Daddy, run faster!"

It wasn't until I got home that the implications of what I'd just done sank in and I got a huge extra buzz from actually going somewhere specific beyond the intention of just going for a run!

Rochester Castle taken from the Strood-Rochester bridge on my 16 mile run

This week, I ran 16 miles as part of my training plan. This involved a there-and-back run from my house in Gravesend to Rochester where I took to the photo of Rochester Castle displayed on this post.

As I took the photo, I was struck by the thought and the buzz of what I was accomplishing here and I ran the next couple of miles with a big grin on my face and received a second wind which definitely made miles 10 to 14 much more enjoyable.

When I have finished training for the Sahara Marathon I hope I'll still have the desire to go places on foot and to take joy in the journey not just the getting-there.

Friday, 4 January 2013


I've had a fairly low point in my training over the last few weeks. I knew it would happen when I started out on this journey and while having a Buddist "accept, acknowledge, right action" attitude and method for dealing with it it still hasn't made it any easier.

I don't want to be overly negative on this blog, but part of my journey has to be the acknowledgement that this isn't easy. It was never going to be and I think I probably thought more of my physical capabilities than I should have.

Perhaps I'd forgotten just how hard those mud runs were last year.

Perhaps I should have not tried to change my running style while stocks also training for my first marathon.

I get updates from my friend John who I'm running the marathon with and he's just doing one long run a week. No other runs! I'm thinking that that's not sensible but then he goes and knocks out 20 miles the other day and I can only just managed 10! I'm really chuffed for John and super impressed and I know that I shouldn't compare our performance let alone training plans but my competitive nature can't help but feel frustrated and a bit inadequate in that comparison.

Suffice it to say that I'm genuinely worried about being able to run the whole marathon (oh I'll still do the full distance but I might be walking the second half) but I'm feeling more positive as the event gets closer and I am getting more excited about the desert and refugee camp elements. And helping the refugees is what it's all about isn't it?

Anyway, I entitled this blog post "Dogs" for a reason.

I have recently re-discovered the location is did all my mud run training.  It's a local nature reserve with excellent stone chipping paths, hills and I have a good 3.5 mile circuit. If you want to see what it's like, checkout the video I put together of John and I doing a Tough Guy training session around it.

Being a public park and an accessible and beautiful place to visit means that the majority of people there are walking dogs of various kinds.

I have nothing against other people's dogs, though I'm not sure I'm the dog owning type, and mostly their owners are diligent about collecting their waste and putting it away in the provided bins (which cannot be said of the horses and their riders who also use the byways in the park).

The problem I have is with a certain subset of dogs that like to challenge me, a runner, to a competition of "who's top dog".

Most dogs will generally ignore me as I run past, choosing to carry on what they were doing and in some cases actively getting out of the way.

Image by Lemondridge on Flikr

I've not been chased, bitten or barked at (well, in an aggressive way at least) but certain dogs, especially the bigger ones though that is not exclusively so, see me coming, work out where I'm running and then actively put themselves in the way!

Some of them are quite subtle about it and will change direction so that we would collide if we both continued in the same direction thus forcing me to change direction and go around them. Generally I don't mind this as they mostly do it with plenty of distance to let me change direction. By and large it is the smaller breeds that do carry out this tactic.

The most annoying type of obstruction is where the larger dogs (mostly labradors I might add) see me coming and, with a challenging glint in third cunning eyes, deliberately turn themselves to stand sideways across my path.

So far I've always been able to swerve out the way at the last minute and on one or two occasions its been the dogs owner, with a curse at the dog, who jumps out the way to let me through. I have benefited tempted to hurdle the dog several times but couldn't face the possibility of accidentally catching it with a shoe.

Any other runners out there experienced this sabotage by dominance challenging dogs and have any advice?