Where do I stop?

It’s about time for another post about life lessons from running. This one starts in Munich. Usually I’ll be mulling over the many benefits of running from positive health impacts to bringing you into contact with people who share your interest and therefore are one step closer to supporting your crazy dreams. But this is different. It’s a race but there’s no finish line or cut off time – so how do you know when to stop? [See below for the answer in terms of running.]

I was mulling over this whilst I was running, in between checking my watch, grabbing some energy from the food and water stations and enjoying the changing landscape once outside the city. I had no idea where I was going to end up, but instead of staying at the start line and worrying about it, or trying to plan the exact route, I started off when the cannons fired and kept taking steps forward.

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Catcher cars at the ready

Fortunately, there are some clever calculations so you can work out how fast you need to be to get to a particular distance before the car catches you. In some ways you can make it like any other race: run the distance. However, there’s a small caveat – you can’t slow down and make up time later in case you get caught, going too fast sometimes makes you slower so pacing is crucial and what happens when you make the distance? Do you stop running, congratulate yourself and wait patiently for the car to formally acknowledge that you have completed your race? Do you re-calculate, set a new target up your pace and run on to the next km marker, then the next, then the next?

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Once you finish you get a shiny, gold blanket

Of course, there is no right or wrong answer, or rather both of them are the right answer. As life patters on, you may find yourself reaching your goal: getting a new job, taking that dream holiday or buying that house and then what? Sometimes you need to stop and pause for a while, enjoy the place you’re at and reflect, review. After a little while it will be time to decide what’s next – to metaphorically lace up your running shoes for the next race. Other times you may get to the goal and it can be your springboard to something else – new opportunities appear, the route is clear ahead and you have the energy to keep going.

There will always be a time to pause and the great news is that you get to decide when that is.

You get the choice of saying: Good job. I’m done for today. Tomorrow is a new day maybe we go again, maybe we rest. Occasionally if you’re not listening to your body you get a reminder – think catcher car – that says you need to stop for a while.

The truth is you never really stop, you pick your direction with a destination in mind and keep going. Sometimes it feels as if you’re stuck mud and sometimes it feels as if you are way off track. It’s ok to reset, recalculate and even to enjoy the meander for a while.

I would love to hear where you’re heading right now – leave a comment or send a message.

[It’s the Wings for Life World Run where you run until the catcher car catches you. Runners get 30 minutes head start and the car is speed limited. It starts at 14kph and increases speed every 30 minutes.]


If you’re feeling stuck, unsure or cautious about taking action then I would love to help. The first step is to get moving (yes, actually moving, take a walk or dance or something) and then get in touch for a chat. I’m currently offering coaching on a pay what you want basis.

Returning to action

The lights were bright and there was a low-level background noise. It was around 6am, but could have been earlier or later. In airports, time often feels like an arbitrary measure due to switching time zones and waiting. I’m on my way back from Uganda and am beginning to feel a little lost. My two week trip had been the focus of many months of activity – 10 months preparation and build up. I’d been fundraising all year to support the trip and then travelled to Uganda – a new country for me – to do new things and meet new people; to change lives and maybe my own.

It was a complete break. This is one of the benefits of travel – a chance to see how it feels to not be connected all the time, to try new food, to have someone else organise your itinerary or alternatively to be completely in charge of how you spend your time.

But now I’m home and I’m not sure what to do with myself. After any big event, there needs to be some time to decompress. Friends and colleagues are keen to hear about my trip and how I feel about it, but it seems too soon to form opinions so I will have to let them form in their own time. I need to consider how to fill my days without the schedule that I’ve adhered to for the last two weeks.

And sure enough a new routine emerges.  I start off doing the things that need to be done, easy ones that remind me what I do and how I do it. Gradually momentum returns but it’s not exactly the same. I found I needed to take a little break after taking a break before I could fully return to action. I’ve met people and seen a different perspective of life. Like it or not, in some small way I’m different and I want to bring that with me into what I do, how I work, who I work with.

When we want to start doing something new, or making a change in our life, or choosing to do something we never thought we could there’s often a reluctance because what happens when I’ve done it. What then? No-one can answer the question and in some way, it’s not really that important to answer it. Rest assured that something will happen: there might be a slight change in attitude, or a whole new career and life path. What is certain is that you will feel better about yourself, you will grow in confidence and you will find your next steps.


What are your next steps? What are you reluctant to start? I’d love to hear about it on my Facebook page. If you need a helping hand, get in touch for information on 1:1 coaching to help you start doing your dreams.

Baselines

The early hours of the morning are creeping up on me and I realise that I’ve had barely any sleep. I’m wearing all my clothes and several layers from other people and I’m still too cold to sleep. I had a mountain to climb and my fears about the quality of the porridge that had been deteriorating all week were about to come true. I was wishing I was anywhere else but where I was.

That’s one of my baselines. A point in time that is fixed in my mind as something not to repeat, but to hold close and know that I survived to tell the tale.

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The route up the mountain

When we’re thinking about doing something new, we often find resistance to getting started. All too often, it’s the fear of what might happen – failure? Not enjoying it? Having people say, I told you so? Having a reference point, helps to keep things in perspective and can wipe out those excuses.

When we think about what’s the worst that can happen it can be difficult to come up with something really bad, that we really think will happen. Try it. Try answering the question “what’s the worst that can happen” for something that you’re itching to do, but are fighting against.

When we’ve been in a situation that was really bad we realise that we’ve got through it. It’s something to look back on and possibly not to return to, but it turned out OK in the end.

And so we have our baseline. A point in time, or a situation, that we can refer to  “if it was as bad as [insert baseline situation here], would I do it?” And this helps to make our decisions easier.  It takes away those excuses about what might happen if we do this new thing because we can to a certain extent quantify the risk. It’s already becoming real and that immediately reduces the fear generated by the imagination.

Yes, there’s always a risk that it might not turn out exactly how you want. There’s always a risk that something happens that’s worse that you can imagine.

And so you set a new baseline, because undoubtedly you will deal with whatever happens as it happens (it’s easier this way than thinking “what if?” before it happens). It’s called extending your comfort zone and creates a new reference point that lets you do bigger things. It allows you to face new challenges and brings with it the twists and turns of life that keep it full.


Have fun reflecting on your baselines and if you need help putting this into action, give me a shout tanyaboardman@hotmail.com

My baselines could well be extended in a couple of weeks when I travel to Uganda for a Cricket without Boundaries project. I’m raising funds for this charity to support cricket development and raising awareness of HIV in sub-Saharan Africa. If you are able to donate a small amount, I would be hugely grateful. The easiest way to donate is online here.

I could never…start cycling

Do you ever get the feeling that you’re missing out? Would this drive you to sulk at home, pretend it’s something you don’t want, or find out how you can join in? Meet Suzanne Perkins, who made it her business to get physical and start cycling so that she could share in the experience that her husband and son had when running marathons.

Suzanne has a back injury and nerve damage to her foot, which means that running is not a possibility. Through physio treatment, she finally asked the question about cycling – and was told that this was something she could do. Cycling is a world away from previous hobbies like quilting and music, and the first step was to buy a bike. This was a hybrid bike with the lowest step through she could find so that, with her back injury she could actually get on the bike.

As is common with new toys, this sat in the garage for a good long while until a casual conversation with friends led to the idea of a group bike ride. Fuelled by the fear of not keeping up, Suzanne got her bike out for some sneaky training.

The group ride, left her feeling a bit disappointed: it was only 6 miles. This was 2014 and it was the start of something. Wanting to put some of her training into practice, Suzanne entered a women’s only sportive. She entered the shortest distance (12 miles that turned out to be 15 miles) and went round the course so fast that her husband hadn’t made it to the finish to see her back in.

It hasn’t all been plain sailing. A fall from the bike and a broken leg, which would have put a lot of people off, led to even more determination. This was fully supported by the family: whilst in recovery a Christmas present of entry into the local sportive was received!

This year, in celebration of her 60th birthday, Suzanne will be tackling 100 miles in the Ride London event. Prior to this she’ll be cycling 86 miles in the hilly Welsh countryside and has just returned from a training camp on Dartmoor. Her first celebration was a family trip to the Olympic velodrome: riding on the track, not watching.

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Suzanne and family at the velodrome

In our conversation, I posed the question on how a non-sporty, non-outdoorsy lady can transform into a cycling whizz. The main drive is to share the experience: of training, of racing, of recovering – doing and achieving – with her family who are all keen athletes. In particular there’s inspiration and encouragement from her son who wants Mum to be fit and healthy.

Mixing with like-minded people, developing an appreciation for the surroundings and noticing the change in seasons all keep Suzanne focused and out on her bike all year round. In cycling you can go at your own pace and in endurance rides challenge your mind as well as your body. When you want to give up 9 miles into a 50 mile ride, it takes some strength to keep going.

And that’s something that you can take into the rest of life: Suzanne has noticed that she’s braver than she’s ever been and not afraid to have a go at new things.

I can’t wait to hear about what’s coming up next. I know there could be mountain biking involved, because there’s been a recent purchase. But who knows what else?

I asked for some tips for anyone contemplating getting active and she said just try things. Keep going until you find the thing that you love and then it becomes easy.

Adventure

I turn the corner and see someone coming towards me. I try and act normal, but I can feel a big grin spreading across my face. I’m visiting Avignon for the first time and the end of the street I’m staying on narrows and looks like a dead end. The map says otherwise so I stroll casually along, following the need to explore. There’s a corner and then another one and a choice of left or right. I choose right. It’s enchanting. It’s beautiful. I feel like Alice in my own, created Wonderland. For the man walking towards me, it’s his usual route.

 

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Rue des Bains

I talk about Adventure, not in the sense of grand expeditions, but in the sense of doing something new. And I love the feeling of doing something new. Trace back the origin of the word adventure and you find it means “what must happen”; “to arrive”. Perhaps it’s always waiting for us to show up and notice it?

Too often I forget, I get stuck in a routine, in the comfort of the same. It’s not bad, it’s fine but it’s not exciting and doesn’t necessarily fill me with joy. But making a change, daring to do something different – no matter how big or small – makes me feel like a prancing pony dancing on my toes.

I could sit at a different table in my regular café, walk or run the opposite way on my usual route, or just explore a totally new path. You can take recommendations on different music to listen to, books to read or films to watch.

Whatever it is, it’s enough to shake things up and notice a change. To remind me I have a choice, to arrive and find out what must happen.


Do you want more adventure in your life? Look out for details of my next adventure course here and sign up for my newsletter for details and offers on working with me.

If you’re already creating adventure in your life, share what you’re doing in the comments – I’d love to hear about it.

My current adventure is walking, running or cycling a total of 3000 miles in a calendar year. This would take me as far as sub-Saharan Africa, where my chosen charity, Cricket Without Boundaries, works with children to deliver health and social education alongside cricket development, which gives children the chance to play. If you would like to support me in supporting them, you can donate here.

 

I could never…cycle around the world

“Oh, I know the person you mean”. Ben Evans is always at least half a lap ahead of me at our local parkrun so it’s no wonder that it took a while before our paths actually crossed. But when we did meet I found a bundle of energy, derring-do and beautiful words. Ben currently holds the Guinness World Record for the fastest marathon in a full body dinosaur outfit and has cycled from Cairo to Cape Town.

These are his words telling how our epiphanies may be subtler than we expect, and describing the freedom that we feel when we follow our dreams, even if we don’t know what will happen when we get there.

“I’m on a bicycle. On one side of the road is the River Nile, on the other the Sahara Desert. Kids run into the street and shout at us in Arabic and men in robes smile and wave Kalashnikovs.  I have 800km to go until the Sudanese border, 11,000km to Cape Town and no idea what I’m going to do at the end. I can’t stop smiling. What’s a guy from Guildford, with no exceptional talents, doing cycling from Cairo to Cape Town?

Rewind five years.

It’s a Monday morning. I’m walking to work, about to light up my usual morning cigarette. Its raining. I’m thinking about a programme that I watched last night about a guy from Scotland who’d cycled from Cairo to Cape Town. I’d like to do that one day, I thought. I don’t think I will, but it would be a damn sight better than downing pints in an empty pub on Sunday night.

My cigarette tastes terrible. Why do I do this? It doesn’t make me feel good.

I throw the cigarette in the river. Maybe I won’t do this anymore. Maybe I need to do something more interesting.

I know that sometimes people have these profound epiphanies when they decide to change their lives, but this was all that happened to me. I gave up smoking, I stopped going to the pub on a Sunday (still only Friday and Saturday) and I bought myself a bike and started riding it at the weekends. That was it. My life stayed pretty much the same, but took a slight change in direction, from the bottom of a pint glass to the possibility of an amazing adventure, cycling around the world.

A few months later, I was made redundant from my job. I thought this was a sign, so I decided to book a flight to California and cycle from San Francisco to L.A. I didn’t know how to fix a puncture, I hadn’t ridden over thirty miles before and the longest I’d spent abroad was a four day bender at Oktoberfest in Munich, but it felt like something I needed to do. I’d be 30 in two months, so it seemed like I had to this now, or I never would.

It was the best few weeks I’d ever had. Although I was riding around a hundred miles a day, up mountains, along highways, through some insalubrious areas of downtown Los Angeles, I experienced the world like never before. The California coast was stunning and cycling felt like the best way to experience it – breathing the air, listening to the sound of the waves, feeling every climb and descent as the highway snaked along the Pacific.

Then I returned home, and suddenly the pub, a pizza and twenty B&H didn’t seem so appealing anymore. I’d done something pretty awesome. I could do something else even more awesome. Cycling around the world seemed like something I could really do.

For the time being I had a new job to start, so this wasn’t an immediate proposition. I didn’t want to lose the fitness I’d built up however, so I decided to enter a half marathon instead. With all the cycling, I felt that I’d be able to hold my own.

I ran in 1hr 29mins. It hurt, but then at the end of it I felt great. Running was brilliant – kinda like drinking, except with a couple of hours of pain for good feeling for the rest of the day. I wanted to do more of it.

I ran another half marathon and joined a running club. Then, after a year of training and competing, I ran my first marathon – Brussels, in 2 hrs 43 mins. It was an amazing experience and it meant I could qualify for the London Marathon, something I’d never even dreamed of doing.

 

I ran it the next year in 2 hrs 38 mins. Over the next four years I ran around fifteen marathons – London, Berlin, New York – and completed them at elite – sub-2.45 level. I hit a 2hrs 37 mins at the Boston Marathon – the oldest and most prestigious marathon in the world; I was invited to run the Test Marathon for the Olympics; I beat Paula Radcliffe in a 10k. Each time it felt more amazing and each time I felt privileged to be able to be doing it.

The main dream though, was still eluding me. Everything had started from that dream – to cycle around the world, but now my life was okay – I had a steady job, I lived in a nice, Surrey town and I had a great new hobby that I was really good at.  I couldn’t just quit it all, could I?

It took another year for me to finally build up the courage.  I’d run a couple more marathons but the feeling wasn’t quite the same as it was at the start. I was doing the same training routes, day in day out, and I was running the same races, week-in week-out.  I had one more ambition – to break a fancy dress world record at the London Marathon, but it didn’t feel like the right time to do it. I was also scared – of quitting my job, of leaving my home, of doing something out of the ordinary and not knowing what would happen at the end.

I found a company called Tour De Afrique that organised a group cycle ride from Cairo to Cape Town. They had a trip leaving in five months. I tried to convince myself of all the reasons that I couldn’t do it, but I couldn’t really think of any. I had no ties, no mortgage, no wife and kids, a job that was going nowhere. I was young enough, fit enough, stupid enough.

So I booked myself on, and suddenly a huge weight fell from my shoulders. It was right. This is what I’d wanted to do, for so long. I’d finally done it.

I quit my job, gave notice on my house, sold all my possessions and booked myself a flight to Cairo.

Cycling the continent of Africa was hard, harder than I could ever have imagined. In Sudan the daytime temperature reached over 50 degrees, in Ethiopia we climbed mountains over 5000m, in Namibia and Tanzania there were no roads for thousands of miles. I got sick; I was bitten by a spider; I was run over. I broke three ribs, had five stitches and had my leg lanced and drained in the back of a truck. Cycling was hard and 12,000km is an unimaginably long way. And yet, every day I was smiling. How could I not? The desert was serene, the mountains sublime, the night sky filled with stars and there were elephants and giraffes on the side of the road. Every day was the best day of my life.

Elephant

Four months later I was cycling towards Table Mountain, my bike, my legs, my body still operating, and my mind as happy as it had ever been. I’d seen the world. I’d done what I dreamed of doing.

This is wrote in my diary that night:

The tour cycling existence is one of perfect liberation – no bills, no work, no responsibilities, no hours or days – which leaves only two things to discover – Africa and yourself. While you are experiencing the former it’s amazing how the latter comes out.  If you are lucky, that person will be someone you like, and if you are even luckier other people will like it to.

I am lucky. I’ve found that person. I need to make sure I keep it, forever.

I didn’t do anything amazing – I just stayed true to myself, and did what I thought was right. Intuitively I knew who I was, but it took the something like the tour across Africa to remind me of this.

When I got home and I booked myself into the London Marathon and applied to break the world record for a marathon dressed as a dinosaur. A year later I was running past Buckingham Palace in a full body Tyrannosaurus Rex outfit, while a woman from Guinness waited with TV Cameras and a certificate. For some reason it didn’t feel that strange.

Now I have new dreams and new ideas. I’m about to cycle the Camino de Santiago in Spain and next year I’m looking to cycle from Kathmandu to Lhasa in Tibet. Everyone has dreams, but so many times we tell ourselves that we can’t do what we need to do to achieve them. I know now that those limits don’t exist and it’s only when we live those dreams that we really feel alive.

Happy living.”

 

I could never…start a charity

What do you do when you need some time to figure out if the career you’ve chosen is the one for you?  Travel?  Support a good cause?  Or both.  And so much the better if you can find a novel twist to tie it all together.

This is how Cricket Without Boundaries was born.  A trip from Cairo to Cape Town coaching cricket along the way…and using cricket to spread education on AIDS awareness and other social issues. (Listen in, it makes sense)

I spoke to Ed Williams – founder and trustee of CWB – and we talked about the last 10 years, how CWB has grown and the challenges for the future.  I found out who provided the inspiration for the original trip, the importance of finding the right team and how playing with ideas can lead you to the right place.

 

CWB is a cricket development and AIDS awareness charity run by volunteers. It has coached over 250,000 children and has had a positive impact on their lives through education, integration and friendship.  Local cricket coaches are supported to ensure sustainability within communities.  The vision is to coach 1 million children in the next 10 years.

If you would like to get involved through volunteering (no cricket experience required) or fundraising and raising awareness they would love to hear from you.

http://www.cricketwithoutboundaries.com/

I could never…volunteer

Back in the day, my impression of volunteers was of elderly ladies with time on their hands being seen to be “doing good”. I hasten to add, this is not my impression now.  Having given my time for different causes from packing hampers to be delivered to those in need at Christmas, to project management in a conservation charity and latterly in a variety of roles at sporting events I’ve definitely gained as much as I’ve given.  I’ve got experience from working in different organisations, I’ve helped people to run distances from 5K to over 30 miles and met a great bunch of people and this has made my life richer.

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Linda Cairns at the Commonwealth Games, Glasgow 2014

I spoke to Linda Cairns, who I met at our local parkrun – an advert for the benefits of volunteering if one were needed – and we talked about her experience of volunteering, the London Olympics and how volunteering has led to her getting her perfect job.

Grab a cuppa and listen in to get motivated to find your place in your community.  We recorded this after a parkrun in a sports centre café, so there’s a little background noise, but that’s all part of the parkrun spirit.

 

Inspired but not sure where to start?

Firstly read Linda’s blog: http://poweredbyvolunteers.net/wp/ and then check out https://do-it.org/ ; and here https://www.joininuk.org/ or just get in touch the next time your see something going on and wonder how you can get involved.  I did just that to entertain a local lunch and activity club for the over 60s – they were delighted that I’d offered and I got an opportunity to practice my flute performance.

I could never… travel on a budget

David Fitzpatrick has a career history in the hospitality industry – managing hostels of varying sizes across Australia, amongst other things.  So who better to give the low down on how to travel on a budget. He’s currently taking time off work to travel around Europe and we caught up in London so I could get some top tips on budget travel.

Find out which days are best for cheap flights, what to look for when choosing accommodation and how to find the best things to do at your destination.

 

“Hostels are a bubble of people having the time of their life; doing the things they dreamt about.”

Book a flight, pack and go. Do the thing you’re dreaming about.

And if that’s not enough, here’s a little bit more: who knew that avocados were so crucial to creating the perfect trip?

I could never…travel solo

I’ve been travelling on my own for a long time now.  It easily becomes a habit to be able to escape the constraints of a timetable well, more to the point, to escape someone else’s timetable.

That’s not to say it’s easy.  There’s no one to give you confidence that you’re going the right way, no one to help speed up the inevitable waits at airports and stations and no one to laugh about the dreadful decor in the hotel room you’ve chosen. However, please don’t let this put you off.  The benefits of going somewhere always outweigh the fear of not going.

So, that’s my first tip: pick somewhere you want to go.  Not somewhere that everybody else says you must see, or that’s top of the must see lists of travel magazines, but somewhere you’ve thought would be good to visit.  Maybe no-one else sees the attraction, but that place somehow gives your heart a little kick when you see yourself there.

When you’re travelling solo, I find you can get through a lot of things quickly, so tip number 2 is that it’s ok to go for a short amount of time.  Don’t kill yourself with a complex, long, multi-point stay (unless you want to). A city mini-break is perfect – 2 to 3 nights: enough to begin to feel familiar with a place, but not too much time that you get bored with your own company and plenty of accessible activities: visiting museums, shopping and eating are pretty much similar in all destinations.

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Florence – perfect for a first time solo city break

Tip 3 is to do some planning before you go.  Book somewhere to stay, work out how you’re going to get there, and plan one or two things to do to start you off.  Things don’t need to be set in stone for the whole of your trip, in fact I’d advise against this – leave yourself some room for the unexpected. Try and walk where you can – you see so much more and can find some gems that you would have missed completely if you were on public transport.

Pack light, is tip number 4.  You won’t need everything you think you do and trust me, the less you have to carry, the better.  You’ll thank me for this when you have one more flight of steps to negotiate and your arm already feels like it’s dropping off. And it’s so freeing to be without possessions.

Tip 5 is all about accommodation.  There is such a huge variety and definitely no one size fits all. It depends on what you’re looking for.  I’ve taken to apartment living whilst I’m away.  I like the feel of being part of a place and having a key to one of those doors that you otherwise walk past, wondering what’s behind it. But if you want a bit more certainty then go for a traditional hotel or B&B.  If you need your social time then think about some sort of hostel or accommodation with shared facilities.

If it’s your first time travelling alone, or if these words are bringing you out in a cold sweat, consider group activities or tours. Intermediate options include self-guided tours or individual guides so you can do things on your own terms, but you’ve got someone on hand to deal with any difficulties.

So there you have it: pick somewhere, book it, pack and go.  Relish the experience – the good, the bad and the ugly – and come back and tell us all about it.

For more of my travel musings take a look here: https://seallikeactivity.wordpress.com/