Archive for 06/08/2012

Interview on Catalunya Radio with Adam Martín

Frank and I spent Saturday with our great friends Santi & Susi singing karaoke.  Yes yes, I know that this is a far cry from the topic of the previous bold entries, but hey, life luckily is not just about sports! As you can probably imagine, I’m not just an endurance runner, but also and endurance karaokeyer – I spent hours enjoying all my favorite 80s songs. I’m not too sure if the neighbors enjoyed my repertoire as much as I did, but from time to time it’s good to just have fun and not worry what the neighbors think…

Sunday was a very different day, somewhat more cerebral than Saturday, but a great pleasure nevertheless. I was interviewed on Catalunya Radio by Adam Martín on his show “El suplement d’estiu”.

As always, it was a great pleasure visiting Catalunya Radio and chatting with Adam, and it was even better being able to share my experiences and philosophies of life with all the listeners!

You can hear the podcast here: Podcast Interview Catalunya Radio

Be Excellent!

The Final Chapter: Into the Lion’s Den for a Warm Millwall Welcome

After finally finishing and posting the Chronicles of the 24 Hours yesterday, and after a wonderful training run up in the Maresme Coast hights this morning with Quim, Fede and Cris, I feel psychologically recuperated and ready to continue writing regularly.

The 24 hours were truly dreadful to such an extent that so far I have been unable to describe the experience fully – something which hasn’t happened to me before. The Chronicles fail to fully explain what I went through – the fully detailed story will come out at a later stage in a book – a collection of my “short” challenges. But the fact of being able to finally put in writing more or less what I went through was a catharsis for me – at last I have recovered my inspiration and my will to write. I was able to write a new article for my website www.alexlivingexcellence.com - a website dedicated to my motivational speaking and executive and sports conferences. Now finally I feel like launching myself once again at writing my blog here regularly, and at starting my next book. But before I begin writing again about new ideas, new philosophies, running, and about life in general, I have to take care of one final aspect – a vitally important one – of my last challenge. My arrival at Millwall F.C. Said arrival was the only part of my challenge which left me full of positive emotions. The track at Crystal Palace left me with memories of a great struggle and precious friendship, but also left me with such a painful taste that I still can’t recall the experience with much affection – apart of course from the people who were there with me. But Millwall is a totally different story.

I knew from before that my arrival there would be warm and joyful, having already been there for the press conference and having met several members of the board and staff, but I didn’t expect the incredible welcome that I received when I finally arrived there. Millwall is a club with a long history. It was founded in 1885 – and though it has changed grounds 3 times, it still keeps the name Millwall. From 1993 The Den, as the club is known as, has been in South Belmondsey in London. Millwall is a very closely-knit club, which was clear with the way in which they welcomed me that Saturday afternoon in April.

I arrived in pretty bad shape – after having finished the 24 hours my physical and psychological defences collapsed. I arrived outside The Den in tears – I hadn’t been able to stop the emotional rush all the way from Crystal Palace. I had emptied my reserves of strength and was feeling weaker than I had ever felt after a challenge. There in The Den their whole team took care of me, made sure that I was in a good enough state to go out onto the pitch. Though I had arrived there doubting whether I’d even be able to stand upright, let alone be able to run out onto the pitch, after about twenty minutes in their care, I felt stronger, and ready to go again.

I dredged the last drop of strength from deep within me and after the players had left the pitch at half time during the Millwall – Leicester City game, as soon as the usher gave me the signal, I burst out of the tunnel running as though I were just starting out.

As I ran I could hear the commentator explaining to the crown what I’d just done , and the fact that I was raising money for the Trussell Trust UK foodbank network. The crowd was cheering loudly as I made my way down the first length of the pitch. When I passed in front of where the most faithful fans were seated, the cheering grew to a roar – I understood then why the Millwall are known as The Lions and why they have a lion as their logo. Zampa the Lion, the club’s mascot joined in to chase me round the last bend, and followed me as I sprinted across the pitch towards the finish line.

Crossing the ribbon I felt wrapped in so much spirit, so much affection, and so much support, from the club, my family, and my team, that after having lived through the dreadful experience in Crystal Palace, that I found myself lost for words, literally breathless, yet full of an inner joy. I felt a profound and painful satisfaction after having overcome all that I had gone through; I felt an exhausted sense of achievement.

I have no idea how I found my voice for the interview on the pitch, but I did, and somehow I managed to get through the T-shirt exchange with Andy Ambler, the chief executive of Millwall and the official photo session with the directors, my brother and Zampa.

The experience there at The Den was a great honour for me: I was delighted to have been able to share the experience, particularly because for so many hours I had doubted whether I’d be able to run into the Lion’s den and experience the roar firsthand.

It was an incredible and an emotional end to such a gruelling challenge.

Be excellent!

The 24-Hour Chronicles Nº 4 – from 6-24 hours

This entry is long overdue. I could just blame time limitations (I was swamped with work prior to leaving for our 12 days holiday, followed by Running Camp and more intense work), which would be true up to a point, but I would be omitting a major factor which has been holding me back from finishing it. I was so utterly exhausted, both physically and mentally after the 24 hours that I was unable to face even writing about it. I still don’t want to, but both the challenge itself and those involved in it deserve it. So here goes…

From hour 6 to 12 I knew that I was extremely tired, but still had the strength to try to maintain a pace that would allow me to break my record. I struggled both with keeping a reasonable pace, as my energy was draining with each hour that passed, and also with monitoring my pace. At some point Chris joined me and tried to mark a pace, but I soon realised that I was burned out. I made a decision close to 12 hours to simply run at whichever pace I could keep reasonably. I stopped monitoring my pace. From time to time I’d ask Jamie to monitor a lap for me – at least I think that’s what I asked him – after I had passed the landmark 12 hours I was so tired that my memory has failed to record everything well.

I have run tougher challenges distance-wise, more complicated ones, logistically more challenging ones, but never have I had to run for so long on the edge of my abilities. At some point during the night, knowing already that breaking my record looked highly unlikely, I decided to simply do my absolute best – reach my maximum potential taking into account the terrible condition I was in. I stopped lamenting the lack of means to measure my speed, stopped beating myself up for having run too fast, and stopped focussing on the fact that I was lonely and that a steady rain had begun at about hour 10, along with a strongish wind. I stopped all this and focussed on simply giving it my best.

The night was long and desperate – I felt nauseous, wet, exhausted and miserable – but I ran on. One of my clearest and warmest memories is of a fox who found it’s way into Crystal Palace and after wandering around for a while, jumped up on the high jump mats and began to roll around before settling down to rest and watch me as I ran. It stayed there for an hour or so; it’s company brightening up the very bleak hours between midnight and 3 am.

At some point Fede and Quim arrived – and though each hour brought me to an even bleaker, more desperate point – their presence would mark what remain some of the only good memories of the challenge. In fact, along with my fox, Frank’s ever present support, Quim, Fede and the team, along with the reception at Millwall are what give this challenge a special place in my heart. Never before has a challenge of mine left me with such negative feelings.

My whole team needs a special mention, and as always Frank stands out with his total support from start to finish – he didn’t sleep a wink and was either up in the announcer’s box posting news on the web, making food and drink for me, or down on the track encouraging me. Fede and Quim need a special mention too, as they had travelled over to London to support (and also to do a little sightseeing pre and post challenge) in any way they could. They had no idea what they were in for, or how tired they would end up.

We had been friends prior to the 24 hours, obviously as they chose to come over to support, but there on the 400 meters track, in the wind and the rain, during the night, and the early hours of the day we sealed the friendship. There’s something about sharing misery, pain, suffering and overcoming it all that draws people together. I can’t even begin to write about all the highs, the lows, the tears and the laughter that was shared there – that will have to be saved for another time – but I can say that though it was one of the worst experiences I have had to endure, it also contained some of the best moments of friendship that I have experienced.

I remember little about the second half of the 24 hours – those 12 hours stretched out painfully and desperately ahead of me, and though each hour that passed brought me nearer the finish line, the hours seemed only to stretch longer as the clock ticked agonisingly on. I just ran round and round, at times no doubt slowing almost to a walk, and at others shuffling with some vague show of dignity. The night security guard encouraged me from underneath his many layers of clothing, as did the two chip timing sisters from the doorway to their little tent – they too were bundled up against the freezing, wet and windy night. As for my team, there was always at least one poor unfortunate soul besides Frank – Jamie spent many hours huddled up in about four layers, with only his grin showing as he cheered me on each time I passed him.

Fede and Quim took turns accompanying me – when they realised how shattered I was, they made sure not to leave me alone for a moment longer. I had my 80s playlist constantly playing on my iPod, but was aware of Quim and Fede’s constant chatter. I hardly spoke, but this didn’t dissuade either of them. They both kept up a continuous flow of talk as they ran beside me. I have no idea where they dredged up so much one sided conversation from, but it kept me going most of the time. When it didn’t, I would let the music carry me away and I’d break into a mumbling song in time to the music.

In retrospect I can see that it was a comic situation, but in reality it was anything but fun. It still remains a painful, desperate memory – one that I have no desire to revisit ever again.

A cold wet dawn finally arrived, but the end still seemed painfully far away. I kept struggling on, giving every ounce of my physical and mental strength, knowing that it was highly unlikely that I’d manage to break my record, but still having decided to do my absolute best, I couldn’t give any less of myself. I knew that if I were to slow down even more, or to start walking, I would not be happy with not breaking my record. If however, after giving my best effort, I was unable to break 184 km, I would be sad, but no disappointed in myself. I would know that I couldn’t have done any better on that particular day.

It was even more frustrating knowing that I should have been able to easily break my record – but this is precisely what challenges are about – you never know what will happen to you. You have to be prepared to give your all no matter what the circumstances are, and no matter how unlikely a favourable outcome is. And that’s what I did, with the help of Frank, Quim, Fede and the rest of the team.

When Quim couldn’t run any further (he ran 42 km in total), he left Fede with me, and went up to the announcer’s box and turned on the mike. From then on, Fede ran with me, and Quim calculated our speed and kept up a running commentary in Spanish letting us know how we were doing. Despite knowing that a new record was unlikely, as by this stage my condition was truly terrible, they set out to help me achieve my goal. Without them, I wouldn’t have managed it. I’ve never had to say that before, but this time it’s true. Without them I would have finished my challenge, but I wouldn’t have been able to run more than 184 km.

I was in such a dreadful state that I couldn’t set a steady pace – Fede did so for me, he set a pace while Quim with his calculations, made sure that we didn’t alter it. They set out a plan with 4 or 5 hours to go, and informed me that I would have to continue running non stop, and during this time I’d only be allowed 2 toilet stops of no more that 2 minutes each if I were to achieve my goal. I was to follow Fede and keep up with him. I remember nothing other that harrowing endless laps. I tried every trick I had to help take me away from the pain, the exhaustion and the nausea, but nothing worked – I just shuffled desperately on following Fede and hassling him about not making me run too fast as I couldn’t go any fatser, but at the same time bugging him not to run too slowly either as I wanted to break my record if there was any chance to do so… Poor Fede! Mark and the rest of the team rallied around helping in any way possible. They managed to buy some energy gels – as I had been unable to eat for many hours, and had no strength left. Fede timed the gaps between gels, and Quim counted off the laps and the kilometres. My world shrank down into 400 metres of track, with Fede beside me, Quim’s voice echoing every few minutes, and Frank and the team handing Fede gels, water, and cheering me on every time we passed them.

As the huge clock beside the chip timing tent clicked through the hours, the rain stopped, the sun came out, and slowly others began to arrive. Anna, Quim’s wife, and Milena, Fede’s partner, arrived mid morning, and slowly others began showing up. Eamonn Canning, and old school friend showed up for an hour or so, Chris arrived, as did Con (he had stayed away, knowing I was doing badly, and sensing that his presence may weaken me rather that help), and finally Daphne, an old family friend.

At some point Mark came out and ran a few more km with us.

I have no idea how I got through the hours and the kilometres, but finally the countdown had begun – I was in the last hour. Finally with just 45 minutes to spare, I began to see an end to my ordeal. I broke down the remaining time into block of 15 minutes, as I had been doing for hours, but now I knew that soon it would be over, and If I could just keep battling on I had a chance to break my record.

Another runner showed up – Tony Phoenix Morrison – he and his friend had driven all the way from Newcastle to support me. Tony has himself run several challenges (his own particular specialty is running with a small fridge on his back – yes you read it correctly!), and yet was surprised to see that battle I was going through. I remember him saying that what he was seeing there, really showed him how gruelling some challenges can be.

By this stage, Quim had come back out to run the last few km before I broke my record, and we ran on a tight quartet, as they boys shielded me from the wind.

I knew when I had broken my record because as I passed the team table and the timing tent, suddenly Fede and Quim weren’t beside me any more – the second I had broken my record they stopped. They were both utterly exhausted – Fede had run a total of about 12 hours. I looked back and had to laugh when I saw them both – though where I found the laugh from I have no idea. Even though I knew I had managed to break my record, I was too wrecked to feel a high.

I just continued struggling on beside Tony running round and round the track until Frank told me I had only one more lap to run. I couldn’t even manage a sprint for that last lap. I have always managed to finish rather spectacularly – but not that day. It was all I could do to keep placing one foot in front of the other till I finally shuffled across the finish line and they stopped me. I collapsed there on the track in tears. It was over, I had given it my all and I had achieved my goal by running 188km and a bit. I was delighted, but absolutely drained, as I have never been before.

Alex Living Excellence
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