Fantastic run this morning. The air was fresh and crisp and I kept a consistent pace throughout. Not my quickest time but not far off my average:

10.03 km – 56:40 min – 5’38” pace

My current goal (after reading Footnotes) is to run without music.

Today, I ran the first five kilometres with music at half my normal volume; and the second five kilometres with it at less than a quarter of my normal volume. No impact on my pace and I was even more aware of the world around me…

Less, More and None (2018)

I can’t remember who originally drew my attention to the idea of Less, More, and None on educator Jacoby Young’s website, but the notion of prioritising your life around these three determiners appealed to me.

Unlike Jacoby, I did not publish my list publicly. However, I did write it down and I returned to it regularly to give some focus and attention to aspects of my life that I felt could be improved. I found it to be fruitful and rewarding. So much so, I have decided to share my 2018 list with a reflective commentary about how I got on.

Less

  1. social media (Twitter, Instagram)
  2. bringing work home
  3. procrastinating

I was very successful with number one. Twitter has been relegated to a liminal space that is fed updates from my blog. This happens automatically using IFTTT so I never have to actually visit Twitter or log in. I have also removed Tweetbot from my iPhone and MacBook. I narrowed my Instagram use to specific accounts related to running and fitness. I am not posting anything; it is simply an ‘inspiration’ tool when I feel I need it.

Items two and three were work related and I did well with both of them. I have not really brought work home at all this year and I have been far more productive at work. Doubling down on my use of OmniFocus was significant in ensuring that my daily routines and projects were well thought through and planned out. Moreover, the updated ‘Forecast’ view in OF3 had a huge impact on helping me manage my work. The updated perspective allows you to interleave your ‘tasks’ in with your ‘calendar’. This helped me plot out my day better and ensure that things got finished rather than half-done.

More

  1. fitness (gym/running)
  2. eating healthy food
  3. trying new foods and recipes
  4. spending time with my wife
  5. travel
  6. listening to others well

I also did well in relation to the things that I wanted to do more of. As I have written about a lot recently, I lost a significant amount of weight and also became addicted to running. I go to the gym three to four times per week and run on weekends. This was supported by an excellent weekly menu. Jennifer and I worked really hard to build more vegetarian meals into our diets, including lots of beans and pulses. We have tried a new recipe every week and it has been a wonderful culinary journey that we plan to continue next year. I now walk to work in the morning (yes, even in the cold and pouring rain) as well as home from work. Jennifer has been walking with me and then she runs home. We live in a pretty area so this has been lovely and it has also helped ensure that Jennifer and I get to spend as much time together as possible.

In terms of item five, I will give myself a bye. Jennifer and I have been reviewing our priorities and travel got pushed down the list a bit. That said, we did visit Copenhagen again (our eighth trip to Denmark in four years) in the summer. 👫❤️🇩🇰

In terms of item six, I’ll give myself a C grade. I have done better, particularly when my phone was not in my hand… see item one in my ‘none’ list. However, I could still be much better at this and will add it into my ‘more’ list for 2019.

None

  1. looking at my mobile phone when people are talking to me

I did not do well with this. I am going to carry this over to next year’s ‘none’ list and really try hard to put my phone away when people start speaking to me.

Overall, I really valued the impact this had on my life over the course of 2018. By making some intentional decisions about what I wanted to do ‘less, more and none’ of at the start of the year, I focussed more on the things that matter and also achieved a level of personal growth that has been missing over the previous few years.

One of the unforeseen benefits, particularly in terms of items 2 and 3 in my ‘less’ list, was that I had a much better year in terms of reading for pleasure. Also, I completed The Guardian crossword everyday… the Quick crossword on weekdays and Saturdays; the Speedy crossword on Sundays.

I have already noted down some ideas for 2019:

  • Re-engaging with my blog since August has been very satisfying therefore a goal to write more regularly seems appropriate.
  • At work, I want to spend less time on ‘urgent but unimportant’ tasks.
  • And, I want to get even more out of my running – finding opportunities to run in interesting places and over longer distances.

Once I have a complete list I will post it here on my blog.

Reading to Run; Running to Read

I just finished reading Footnotes by Vybarr Cregan-Reid. It was an excellent book… as much a travel diary and literary history as a book about running.

I normally do a bit more research before starting a book but this one came highly recommended so I jumped right in. I was unaware that the author was a Lecturer in English Literature at the University of Kent. Cregan-Reid underpins and punctuates his running journey with numerous literary references and quotations. They are all apposite, detailed and creatively employed.

I can certainly recommend the book to fellow runners as I came away feeling that Cregan-Reid unearths the very essence of running and its role in our relationship to the world around us. But, I can also recommend the book to those who have an avid interest in literature and travel; particularly those with an enthusiasm for writers who extolled the virtues of nature like Blake, Coleridge, Hardy, Tolstoy and Woolf.

This was my sixth running-related book during what has been a very good reading running year:

  1. Askwith, Richard – Today We Die a Little: Emil Zátopek, Olympic Legend to Cold War Hero
  2. Cregan-Reid, Vybarr – Footnotes: How Running Makes Us Human
  3. Finn, Adharanand – Running with the Kenyans: Discovering the Secrets of the Fastest People on Earth
  4. Finn, Adharanand – The Way of the Runner: A Journey into the Fabled World of Japanese Running
  5. McDougall, Christopher – Born to Run: The Hidden Tribe, The Ultra-Runners and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen
  6. Murakami, Haruki – What I Talk About When I Talk About Running: A Memoir

They are all well written and each is uniquely different.

Today We Die a Little by Richard Askwith was the most interesting read. I knew nothing about Emil Zátopek prior to reading the book. I had never even heard of him! Askwith’s biography is rich in detail; profoundly inspirational; and deeply heartbreaking.

However, I feel that Born to Run by Christopher McDougall has had the most significant impact on my running. Not only is there a fantastic over-arching story about the Tarahumara and Micah True’s tireless efforts to organise a race in the Copper Canyons (Mexico), but weaved into the narrative is a well-researched argument for barefoot running.

McDougall uses historical facts, scientific data and a wealth of anecdotal evidence to present a compelling case for freeing one’s feet from the tyranny of running shoes. I am not fully converted. My feet remain shod when I run but I spent three months focussing intently on my running form. I now land mid to forefoot; run with a slight forward lean; and have increased my cadence significantly. The impact has been huge. I am quicker; I can run further; and I have been close to injury free ever since. No plantar fasciitis here!

Next up is… The Runner: Four Years Living and Running in the Wilderness by Markus Torgeby.

I’m currently reading Footnotes by Vybarr Cregan-Reid. My run on Sunday morning reminded me of this passage from the book:

We runners know that once you settle down deeply into pace, you settle just as deeply into the landscape; you huddle into it. The reason that the experience of the landscape can be so intense is that you become part of it. What you are feeling is an analogue for what the place is feeling as it feels itself, and you.

Following the downpour on Saturday and seeing the thermometer read one degrees Celsius, I decided it was best to stick to the trails. I was rewarded by finding myself ‘huddled into’ my surroundings. The sun shone through the gaps in the trees; the air was crisp and fresh; and the trail was familiar – like an old friend. I had ‘settled’ in and found myself ‘deeply’ connected to the landscape around me.

It is these moments, and they happen more and more often, that have turned running into a necessary part of my life.

I don’t want to run. I have to run!

No stats this week…

I’ve been nursing muscle strains in my back for the last two weeks. The first was on the right side of my back and cleared up after a weeks rest. The second was more acute – acquired following an intense round of 3×3 basketball. I really should have learned to ease myself back in by now!

This morning, I was simply grateful to be back out running on the roads and trails. The sun was shining; the air was fresh; and I got home injury free. 🌞