LOST - Guest Blog Post from our Favorite (HE)ifer Brett


He’s back with another great blog post - here’s “LOST” from Brett…

LOST


Apparently, individuals in the UK spend an average of £4,480 on lost items with keys, phones and glasses, remote controls and money topping the charts. School children may lose 1,000 assorted items throughout their school career and the TV series LOST, to this day, remains a mystery to me in all except one facet – did LOST get, well, lost? Maybe that was the irony missed by us all and the creators are now chuckling to themselves as we discuss the outlandish permutations of the plot. Indeed, is this where the phrase ‘lost the plot’ originated? If being lost is truly defined by an inability to find ones way, or not knowing ones whereabouts then, in truth, I have been lost for the past 47 years. So why have I now found my true north?

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Relationships are tricky. The chances of finding that certain someone is akin to the chaos theory. Relationships of course extend beyond human encounters and certainly runners, in my experience, have their own special affinity/relationship with running. Like any relationship it ebbs and flows with the commonly regurgitated phrase ‘I’ve lost my Mojo’ being tweeted on a reasonably regular basis and interestingly isn’t more common during the bitterly cold winter runs. Invariably this is followed by a plethora of supporting comments and advice. However, relationships in any form are, in my opinion, only truly sustainable if at their very core lies congruence.

I’ve blogged before on my reason to run. Previously running was truly omnidirectional, and truth be told it often took me miles from my intended destination. I knew I needed to run, but like a poorly constructed training plan I lacked critical insight. But my lack of insight had little to do with my knowledge of running but everything to do with motivation. I ran to please others, I ran to control my weight, I ran to achieve a fleeting high, I ran because I could, I ran because I was angry, I ran because I was sad, I ran because I was scared of not running and perhaps in many ways for all of these reasons simultaneously.

Of course, running used to be ‘different’. My first medal was the size of a 50p piece and there was no goody bag – and that was for a triathlon. In the early days I don’t think I even used a stopwatch and GPS wasn’t a term even coined by the thinktanks, Parkrun and technical t-shirts were pipe dreams and the only measure I had was how long I’d been out for. Time on feet was all I knew unless I ventured on my bike to the nearest town which I knew was a little over four miles away and the village I grew up in was one of the longest in the UK. I believe it has grown since. One IKEA estate at a time.

 Critically there were no apps. There was no map my run, there was no Strava. For this I am grateful. Although, with hindsight, I knew I wasn’t training for the triathlon for positive reasons at the time I enjoyed the process. It served its purpose and with a complete inability to compare myself to other athletes I had absolutely no comprehension of my ‘ability’ or progress. I felt ready, therefore I was. Mentally I was convinced I would complete the course. Which I did. My direction, if there was one, was simply the finishing line.

 Strava, I believe, inhibits this natural directional process. Like the whale and the speedboat, with some, beaching is inevitable. According to the eminent social psychologist Leon Festinger, as outlined in his theory on cognitive dissonance, there is a tendency for individuals to seek consistency among their cognitions (i.e., beliefs, opinions). When there is an inconsistency between attitudes or behaviours (dissonance), something must change to eliminate the dissonance. In layman’s terms we are prone to compare ourselves with others and feel discourse should a balance not exist.  As a teacher I see this all the time. If permitted, students of similar abilities will naturally band together. However, Strava cannot be seen as congruent. Strava does not inherently perpetuate cheating – perish the thought somebody should falsify data – it does however heighten the perception of dissonance. We are not naturally drawn by the norms of social comparison, it is thrust upon us. It appears, according to the developers, competition and challenge are the lifeblood of a good app.

 At no point did a good app define any run being ‘good’. For from it.

 As I think back to some of my favourite runs it strikes me those I remember the most, due to the pure enjoyment and sense of fulfilment, were not the paths well-trodden, but the unknown route. More exactly, the runs where I’d become lost. For there, ironically, I found myself. For there I ran for me. Because I wanted to. Because I was being true to me. That is not to say every other time I have donned my trainers I wasn’t running with purpose, or for the enjoyment of the run, but to TRULY lose oneself actually takes some doing. There is a reason why being in the moment takes meditation.

For years I wanted a second tattoo. For years I exercised restraint. 17 years on from my first it now sits proudly on my inner forearm. Every part of it has meaning. I believe a true north can only be found when congruence comes totally from within. I must have looked at hundreds of tattoo designs before sitting down and designing my own. Running tattoo’s are often a bit of a cliché however there were some, connected with running that stood out with ‘to thyself be true’ standing out.

 Apparently, a tattoo needle pierces the skin roughly 3,000 times a minute. In the 120,000 tiny moments it took for the ink to penetrate my skin I found myself.

 My tattoo will remain with me for life. It will never be misplaced. It will never be lost, it will always be ‘with pain comes strength’.

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About Brett:

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Brett is a father, a teacher, a runner. He completed his first triathlon at the tender age of 17 and has gone on to run every distance from sprint mile to marathon and aims to complete his first ultra marathon in 2018 at the not so tender age of 47. 

He is open about his battle with mental health and since hitting rock bottom 8 years ago has been on what he would describe as being a life changing journey ever since. He is a firm believer that through sharing and support anything is possible and that above all else we must strive to de-stigmatise mental health.  You can follow Brett on Twitter and cheer him along as he battles his anxiety and beats it most days.

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Jose Gonzales - Guest post from Brett....

Jose Gonzales

It has been said that the human heart has a finite number of beats before it simply stops. The day you reach that figure, which is apparently unique to each individual, and your time on this mortal coil is over. There is, of course, not one shred scientific evidence to support this theory.

Having said that, animals with high pulse rates, like hamsters and mice, live short lives, while ones with low rates, like tortoises and whales, can live longer than us. The Galapagos tortoise’s heart, when resting, is just six beats per minute whereas the dormouse is an incredible 240 beats. Maybe there is something in the claim.

Recently, once again, I have been struck down with injury and unable to run. Interestingly, in running terms this is my lowest mileage for years. I have more DNS’s than I care to mention, and I won’t even begin to add up the financial hit I’ve taken. However, I have learnt more about ‘me’ than during any other year of my ‘running career.’  

There is a point, which all runners must face, that they will have to stop or make significant changes to their running. Like Damocles, seated at a banquet with a sword suspended over his head by a single hair to show him the perilous nature of his happiness, do runners need to occasionally be reminded of their own fragility; and in doing so would this be a bad thing?

Undeniably, injury - in whatever form - puts runners into a tailspin. The longer the injury prevails the harder their time-out becomes. To alleviate the impending sense of doom the runner is more likely to head out regardless, thus aggravating the injury setting them back further. It’s a maze where the exit is clearly signed with ‘You must rest’. A sign so easily ignored.  My torn calf muscle is for now a hard reminder that I am far from invincible which is, ironically, how I have often felt at the end of a long slow run.

Physiologically I know stopping running will have an effect. Possible weight gain, a drop in VO2 efficiency and certain brain functions may become less efficient. It has often been reported that runners have a tendency towards addiction. When the commitment teeters over the line to dependency and compulsion, the runner forgoes ignores the signs in pursuit of the ‘fix’. Unfortunately, the malignant growth of overtraining is insidious, perceived by others but rarely by the runner in question. We become blinkered.

In the absence of running I decided to turn my attention to new pastimes. Stretching, in isolation, was never ‘my thing’. My pre and post run culminated in little more than a gentle, or in many cases non-existent, thigh stretch. But following a brief conversation on Twitter the notion of yoga was presented to me by a faceless runner. I say faceless as I’ve literally never seen her face. Following a few clumsy attempts using static pics I eventually found an app and followed a video. Initially the poses seemed unnatural and honestly downright painful.

Slowly but surely my flexibility improved along with a hitherto unknown core strength. In short, Yoga is now part of my daily routine and one I would loathe to give up. In my mind I see this as undeniably positive however I must also ask myself ‘have I merely given up one addiction for another’? Grace Jones may well have been a slave to the rhythm but are we slaves to?

I desperately try to step back from a pastime I love and see the cold hard facts but honestly, I’m in too deep. Stopping running, up until my recent slow return it had been three months, has led me to Yoga. But it also led me to accept that I am now bigger than the next race and if there is a healthy balance then perhaps that is it and perhaps that is all there needs to be. The acceptance isn’t that running will one day cease, but that I am more than the run.

‘Heartbeats’ by Jose Gonzales features the most amazing music video of all time; in my most humble opinion. A million coloured balls bounce down the streets of San Francisco. The balls bounce elegantly down ridiculous inclines in slow motion. Time is mesmerizingly stretched.

Yoga slows my heartbeat. I listen to this song as I stretch. If there is a finite number, then maybe I’ll be meeting my maker a little later than expected.  

About Brett:

brett.jpg

Brett is a father, a teacher, a runner. He completed his first triathlon at the tender age of 17 and has gone on to run every distance from sprint mile to marathon and aims to complete his first ultra marathon in 2018 at the not so tender age of 47. 

He is open about his battle with mental health and since hitting rock bottom 8 years ago has been on what he would describe as being a life changing journey ever since. He is a firm believer that through sharing and support anything is possible and that above all else we must strive to de-stigmatise mental health.  You can follow Brett on Twitter and cheer him along as he battles his anxiety and beats it most days.


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Billy - Another Guest Post from our Favorite...Brett!


Billy

 

Liking, partiality, leaning, proclivity, inclination, disposition, enjoyment, appreciation, soft spot, taste, delight, relish, passion, zeal, appetite, enthusiasm, keenness, penchant, fondness, affection, tenderness, warmth, intimacy, attachment, endearment, devotion, adoration, doting, idolization, worship, passion, ardour, desire, lust, yearning, infatuation, adulation, besotted.

 

Weakness.

 

There are far greater men than I who can wax lyrical about love and all the nouns in the world often pale into insignificance when confronted with this almost celestial manifestation. Quite rightly so. Hearing those three magical words can your day from disaster to triumph, from meaningless to meaningful.

According to psychologists it is the commonly held view that many hanker after romantic love and in fact, should we dare to scratch the surface, there are 7 types of love and romantic love is merely a modern construct.

  1. There is the all-enveloping love full of passion and desire – all very Cupid. Picture if you will Paris and Helen and the war that followed.  

  2. Friendships based on not only mutual benefit but also companionship, dependability and trust. Of course, there is nothing to say that all-enveloping cannot develop to encompass all the beautiful synchronicity. True friends, it could be said, seek together to liver a truer, fuller life by relating to each other authentically.

  3. Familial love may be asymmetrical especially when the ‘couple’ in question differ significantly in age. A parent and child, a career and an aging relation. Unlike other manifestations this does not rely on personal qualities but is often expected to be unconditional.

  4. Now consider if you will the playful or uncommitted love. The focus is on fun. Yes, it can be uncomplicated, undemanding and even long lasting. However, if one of the parties wants to move on, then what?

  5. Pragmatism also plays its part. A love born from duty and long-term interests. Think celebrity and politically motivated pairings.

  6. Self-love cannot be ignored. One word; Hubris. Of course, here we find a double-edged sword, self-esteem and the emotional appraisal of our own worth sits effortlessly alongside an inflated sense of one’s self. Arrogance and self-righteousness reign supreme.

  7. Finally, we come to what is often regarded as charity love; it’s altruism. The helpers high. The universal love; for strangers, for nature, for God.

To each their own. Where I sit, where you sit, is frankly irrelevant and almost certainly a fluid playing field. However, it has become apparent to me recently that I had been in a long-term relationship for years - one that I have only just come to acknowledge due to not the relationship itself, but that which envelops it. Let me elaborate.

Forgive me if you will for the gender specificity. For the car owners; is yours male, or female? You get my drift. Running for me is she and she is a myriad of beautifully complicated emotions. Tonight, was my first run post injury, a testing run, and as every step went by I was awash with euphoria and fear in equal measures. After a month off this was first date territory and as with all first dates it came to an end somewhat awkwardly - does it finish now? I know I should wait before sending her a text. Yes, I’ll play it cool. I’ll see her again in a few days, any sooner would be foolhardy.

And so, the game plays out.

In all honesty I have no idea how the game will play out. It’s been a year of injuries and illness and like all relationships we have entered a new stage. There is a familiarity there now. There is balance. However, this has little to do with my relationship with her, but everything to do with them.

Yes, tonight’s dalliance was tantalising but interestingly, my yearning to get back to running has little to do with the run itself, but the relationships that surround the run. Previously I have always hankered for the solitude of a run, even on race day, but there has been a shift which I can directly attribute to the friends I now talk to, daily. We were brought together by a run and have stayed an incredibly tight and wonderfully supportive group. Through their support I have found a hitherto unknown confidence to talk to other runners, to attend races and enjoy the somewhat smelly social side post run.

Psychologists and their theories make for interesting reading, of that there is no doubt but for me runners occupy and personify all that is the best of love; friendship, trust, authenticity, altruism.  

As for the second date… ‘she is frequently kind and suddenly cruel…but she’s always a woman to me’.

About Brett:

brett.jpg

Brett is a father, a teacher, a runner. He completed his first triathlon at the tender age of 17 and has gone on to run every distance from sprint mile to marathon and aims to complete his first ultra marathon in 2018 at the not so tender age of 47. 

He is open about his battle with mental health and since hitting rock bottom 8 years ago has been on what he would describe as being a life changing journey ever since. He is a firm believer that through sharing and support anything is possible and that above all else we must strive to de-stigmatise mental health.  You can follow Brett on Twitter and cheer him along as he battles his anxiety and beats it most days.

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