Friday Finds is a regular feature in which I collate and share interesting articles and posts on running/fitness which I’ve read recently. Some might be inspiring, some might be scientific, some might provoke debate. All are things I’ve found in some way thought-provoking.
Whatever your sport or exercise of choice, fitness always presents challenges. Whether it’s those first tentative steps out the door, the desire to be stronger or a gruelling physical challenge, once we become addicted to those endorphins, we always want to be better, to improve on what we can already do. For most of us, this means setting goals, training hard and trying to be the best version of ourselves we can be. But there are also those who take it that bit further, the pioneers who try something new, something crazy, something that others say can’t be done. Recently I’ve come across a few stories about people pushing themselves to the limit in the pursuit of a goal, and that’s what I want to focus on this week.
Whilst driving to work earlier this week I heard an interview with adventurer Sean Conway, who has just completed a 1000 mile run from John O’Groats to Land’s End. Impressive. But even more impressive is that this run was also the culmination of what is being termed the “Ultimate Triathlon”. The thought of running an average of 25 miles per day for 6 weeks without a support crew is incredible, but the fact that Conway (who is sporting a rather Forrest Gump-like beard!) has previously swum and cycled between the same two points makes it even more so. And it sounds like the taste for adventure has not been satisfied as Conway hints that once recovered, he’ll challenge himself to something new soon. I can’t wait to find out what he’s up to next!
And speaking of triathlons, I also came across this article in The Telegraph about writer Lucy Fry and her new book Run, Ride, Sink or Swim: A Year in the Exhilarating and Addictive World of Women’s Triathlon. An increasing awareness of the number of people around her either getting involved in or learning about triathlon led Fry to investigate possible reasons behind the growing popularity of swimbikerun. This led to an intensive year immersed in triathlon, taking on several events and learning a lot about not just the world of triathlon, but about herself too. Taking on 5 triathlons of varying distances from sprint to Olympic in that year was the challenge Fry set for herself, no mean feat given her novice status, but she wanted to know what would happen when faced with her own limitations. What drew me to this was that I could identify with Fry’s fears of bike maintenance and mass swim starts. Fry overcame her fears and successfully completed her challenge, in often tricky conditions. To do so, she had to juggle hard training around the rest of her life, just like any “ordinary” (tri)athlete, proving that anything is possible when we really want it. I’ll be adding this book to my summer reading list and maybe even dabbling in a little bit of swimbikerun myself one day!
A more well-known athlete looking to push themselves to glory is Olympian and former Tour de France winner Sir Bradley Wiggins. Not content with his victories so far, Wiggo now has his sights set on the track cycling one hour record, a record that has been broken four times in the last eight months, most recently by Briton Alex Dowsett. The record is much as it sounds: to cycle as far as you can in one hour. Dowsett’s record stands at a whopping 52.937km, but Wiggins is aiming for 55km! To put that in perspective, that’s around 34 miles, meaning Wiggins would be pedalling at a pace that would break the speed limit in an urban area! I think I’m doing well if I can hit about half that speed, so just can’t imagine maintaining that pace for a whole hour. That would be full-on, eyeballs out, jelly-legged, furious pedalling. It will definitely be impressive if he does it and Wiggins certainly seems confident. Allez Wiggo!
Returning to the more familiar territory of running, this week I also came across this clip from a BBC programme about pioneering marathon runner Kathrine Switzer. After famously running the Boston marathon at a time when such feats were reserved for men only, Switzer became an avid campaigner for women’s sport, particularly the marathon. These days, the number of women running marathons, whether in 2:20 or 5:20, is steadily increasing, and while more recently we may have ‘The Paula Effect‘ to thank for some of that, without Switzer blazing a trail for women, the feats of a great like Paula would never have been possible, and ordinary women like me would certainly not be out there making 26.2 a regular event. Switzer’s is an inspiring story and one I can never help but marvel at.
Finally, I want to share a recent post from adventurer Sophie Radcliffe about what it means to be ready to perform and deliver on the day. Radcliffe has taken on some incredible challenges including cycling from London to Paris in less than 24 hours, completing the world’s first Alpine coast to coast and taking on Ironman Wales. Radcliffe aims “to show that challenges in the great outdoors are accessible and achievable for everyone,” regardless of whether that challenge is running your first race or cycling across a country. Her blog posts are about focus, stepping out of your comfort zone and pushing yourself to new and better goals. As I prepare to step into the unknown with my cycling, this post served as a timely reminder that we may never feel truly ready for a challenge, but the important thing is that we dig deep and give it our all on the day. Something I’ll try to remember when it counts.
The Running Princess