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