50 Day Running Streak


On the summit of Mount Isobel during my 50 day streak

On the summit of Mount Isobel during my 50 day streak

Today I have run for 50 days without a break. During the last 50 days I have run every single day. My shortest run was 2.65km (1.64 miles), my longest was 50km (31 miles). I have run on the beach and in the hills. I have run over Mount Isobel above Hanmer Springs and I have run round and around Hagley Park in the centre of Christchurch City. I have run in new shoes, old shoes and barefoot on the beach. I have run before dawn and watched the sun rise out of the sea. I have run at lunchtime, and in the evening as the sun sets. I have run with old friends, new friends, dear friends, my dog and alone. During this time I have raced in a 17km mountain run, a trail half marathon and a 50km ultra.

I was so looking forward to writing this post. I would be full of words of wisdom, precious little pearls to pass on to my admiring readers. And yet now I have got here, I feel a resounding…so what?

I don’t really feel any different, fitter perhaps, but I have not suddenly attained enlightenment, or discovered the meaning of life, the universe and everything. I am just a runner.

And maybe that is what it is all about. Being ‘just a runner’. I do now identify myself as a runner, although I had been running for over a year before that happened, but ‘being a runner’, just is. It is neither good nor bad, exciting or unexciting. It is just what I choose to do.

But I have no pearls of wisdom for you. No list of ’10 things I have learnt’ (except that by running more you get fittter, but my guess is you could have worked that one out for yourselves!) So, after 50 days of running, I don’t really know what to say.

It’s been fun, of course, or I wouldn’t do it! I love being on the beach in the teeth of a storm, or up in the hills on a beautiful clear day when I can see forever. And I feel better when I have been for a run than when I haven’t.

So I think I shall carry on. I wondered if I should take tomorrow off, just to prove I am not getting obsessed, but on the other hand, why worry? There are many obsessed people in the world. One more won’t change anything.

Maybe after I have run 100 days without a break I shall have found wisdom.

Or maybe wisdom can run faster than I can!






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I am an Ultramarathoner! And what have I learnt?

I am an Ultramarathoner!


It’s true, I am an ultramarathoner! I know, I’m bragging here, but I can’t help it!

For the non runners amongst you, the distance was 50km, or a smidgen over 31 miles. This is the shortest of the ultramarathon distances. Technically an ultramarathon is anything longer than a marathon, so if you ran a marathon and continued for an extra 50 metres, you would have run an ultra. But to all intents and purposes, ultras start at 50km.

The time was very slow, I was last. By a long way.

It started well, very well. I was within 3 minutes of my personal best time for 10km and did a personal best for the half marathon. Emily, my eldest, was running the first part of the race as a team member, and she kept telling me I was going too fast, but I didn’t listen. I blasted the first 20km, and was still going like the wind. This was my day. I was running great. I knew I could do it. Kids, always too conservative!

I knocked off another 8km or so no problem, see Emily, I do know best! But then, approaching 30km, something weird happened. Somebody removed my legs and replaced them with tree-trunks and at the same time filled my shoes with lead.

Emily was at the aid station. “Emily, what’s happened?” I moaned. “You went out too fast,” was the unsympathetic reply. Followed by those words we all so love to hear from anyone, particularly your own kids…”I told you so!”

I struggled through the next 10km, but it was difficult. By the time I got into the last 10km I was running slower than most people walk. 2 km laps that had taken me 12 minutes in the first part of the race were now talking half an hour. It took over an hour to get through the last 4km, but by then I was not giving up. I would have crawled if I had to!

So what has running an ultra taught me?

1. Maybe running an ultra as a warm-up for your first marathon is not the best plan.

2. Listen to people (even your own kid) if they think you are going out too fast. Or at least consider it. This morning I read something that said going out too fast was like borrowing from the bank; it had to be repaid later. With interest.

3. 50km is a very long way.

4. Hagley Park at dawn is a lovely place to be.

5. Hagley Park 8 hours later may be lovely but I was too tired to notice.

6. There seems to be something addictive about running. Despite the pain in my legs during and after the race, despite not being able to get comfy in bed because of the legs, despite not being able to walk the next morning, I want more. I want to do it again next year, and do a little better. Maybe do the 50 mile, or even the 100km race.

7. 8 hours is a long time and you do a lot of thinking. Below is a picture of what I was thinking about for the last 4 hours of the race.


8. And yes, you get to learn a lot about yourself during that time. For me, as always, it raised questions rather than providing answers. Why do we run? How far can humans go? What drives us to push ourselves? What am I running from? What am I running to? Why am I doing this? Why don’t I just walk out of the park right now, go home, have that nice cup of tea, a shower and go to bed?

I have no answers. I don’t know why I run. I just know I need to do it. I have a fellow feeling for George Mallory. “Because it’s there” says nothing. And everything.

I run because I do.

Why do you run?



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Saying NO To Minimalism!

Saying No To Minimalism!

OK! Enough! I am not a minimalist…now step away from my books!

My struggle with minimalism should be obvious by now to readers of this blog. I have to admit I am seduced by the idea. I read minimalist blogs, and absorb accounts of how people have pared down their belongings and found freedom and happiness. 100 items seems to be the goal for true minimalists, and I have read slightly apologetic accounts from bloggers who do not consider themselves true minimalists because they have 204 items in their lives.

People, enough! Life is not about numbers, well, not unless you are a mathematician. Life is about living. And life is too short to worry about how many books I can have.

“But I cannot live”, I hear you cry, “I’m too burried in clutter!”

Me too. So where is that balance, that middle way between being a pack rat and minimalism? This is what I am looking for. And failing to find.

However, I am trying again.

We have started at the back door of the house and are working our way in. Each and every item will be checked over (I expect this will take years….) cleaned and put away, or passed on or binned.  And as for the books, if I like them and read them….I’m keeping them!

It is tremendously time consuming, and I have no idea how far we will get before we throw our hands up in horror. And I have a sneaky feeling that as we move on through the house other stuff will be creeping in through the back door behind us, and re-occupying the cleared areas.

We can but try.

Maybe the minimalists have the right of it after all. If you only have a hundred items you must know each and everyone personally, you must care for it and want it to be part of your life. You can tell immediately if an extra item or two have crept in unannounced.

But I do wonder how they do it. Do toilet brushes, cleaning cloths and washing up liquid count as personal possessions? What about beds, and tables and chairs? Or maybe they rent fully furnished homes, eat out and have cleaners.

Hmmm…minimalism begins to sound better and better!

But I have made my decision. I am not a minimalist, and I don’t see myself becoming one in the near furture. I am, however, going to deal with the clutter. I would like to cut the number of items in my house by 50%.

I just hope to finish before the next millennium!



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Minimalism or Homesteading?

Minimalism or Homesteading?

Do we REALLY need all this STUFF?

Do we REALLY need all this STUFF?


I am back to considering the clutter again. Like most of us I struggle in this area. I read books like Clutter Be Gone! and websites like The Minimalists and I strive to emulate these people, to learn from their wisdom and insights.

I know that my life will be simpler, the less STUFF I have in it. I know that objects from the past I am keeping for sentimental or emotional reasons are holding me back. I know things I have not used, that were a mistake when I bought them, and are an even bigger mistake now, just hold me in a cycle of guilt. But here I still am surrounded the things, by stuff.

So why? Why, when I desire clear space and free air, am I buried in books, boxes and belongings?

I think, maybe, the problem is that part of me is a homesteader. Homesteaders enjoy a life of self sufficiency. They grow and preserve their own food, they often make their own clothes, and tools too, if they have the skills. And all this takes up space. Tools for gardening, space to preserve food, jars and pans for preserving and bottling, material for clothing making, along with sewing machines, and sewing baskets, knitting needles and wool. Outside, the tool shed has its load of tools, nuts, bolts, nails and screws. A wood store is needed for the lengths of timber, roof shingles and plumbing joints that will be used one day. Very little is thrown away, instead it is carefully sorted and stored against future need.

It is a way of life I admire, and that a part of me wants to emulate. When I was growing up in the 1970’s there were many self sufficient communities setting up in the UK. Groups of people would band together, pool their money and resources, buy a plot of land in Wales or Scotland and set up a self sufficient community. They met with varying degrees of success, normally depending on the quality of their leadership, but I admired them, and in many ways I still do. To be able to turn your back on the modern world and get back to a simpler way of life. To have the skills and resources to make and fix things yourself, without having to rely on, and pay, other people to do it for you. To be able to handcraft top quality items instead of buying shoddy things made cheaply overseas, maybe in dreadful sweatshops. This is the way to live!

But I also want free space and free time. I want time to run, and as I move further towards long distance running, it takes more and more time. I want to sit on the beach with my loved ones and watch the waves. I want to travel in my little van around New Zealand. I also want to travel and run overseas. In my house I want fewer items taking up my space and time. I don’t want to spend hours dusting books or around things. I don’t want to have to sort through mountains of stuff to find the one thing I want. I don’t want items from my past dragging me down, or making me feel guilty every time I look at them.

And so I live in a weird compromise world. One where there are a few preserving jars in the cupboard, but not enough to actually make a difference. The garden has a few vegetable plants, but not enough for anything to actually give us a meal, the shed is cluttered with items that might be (and occasionally are) useful. There are boxes of things from the past hobbies or interests of all 5 of us, that we keep because we spent money on them, and who knows, we may take up that sport or hobby again in the future.

Off the top of my head I know there are martial arts gi’s stored in a bag in my bedroom; bows from when the girls did archery; some cross country skis from when we lived on a moor in Yorkshire, UK; watercolour paints from a previous hobby; the dog crate from when the dog was a puppy and books from all interests and ages, board books, homeschooling books, novels, cookbooks, kids books, books on building cob houses, books on knitting, sewing and quilting, books on heraldry, history and horses…

Just a few, a very few, of the books….

Just a few, a very few, of the books….

We look around at all this stuff and we say Too Much! This Has To Go! But then there is a rainstorm, and the roof begins to leak and Peter finds a bit of wood in his shed and fixes it. Later Jonty asks for fingerless gloves as his hands get cold with Raynauds Syndrome, and I find some wool left over from another project and start knitting. The cat gets bitten by a dog and needs an operation. Afterwards we dig out the old puppy crate to keep him safe while he recuperates. A friend borrows a book on heraldry. There is a glut of blackcurrants and I make jam using the preserving pans and jars. And on it goes.

And so I am locked in an endless struggle between minimalism and homesteading. Neither one thing nor the other. At times I long to sell all I own, buy a slightly bigger van (one with a toilet!) and take off. No clutter, nothing not needed. And at others I want to carefully sort everything, to build another shed to use like a homesteaders barn, to store the tools and equipment needed to be more self sufficient.

It is with a degree of irony I have to note that both minimalism and homesteading can be catagorised as slow living….

I hope, in time, I will work out what I do actually want.

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The Power of the Streak!

The Power of the Streak!

No, I don’t mean dashing naked across a cricket pitch….I mean the use of a streak to establish a habit.

I am interested in habit forming, it’s one of the reasons this blog is called ‘Slow Habits’. Habits are ways we can automate many parts of our life. We all have them, the bedtime routine, being just one. The cue is the time, bedtime, and we follow a series of events that result in us being tucked up in bed. It is normally a variation of toilet, wash, floss and brush teeth, get undressed etc. It may also include letting the cat/dog out/in, setting the washing machine or checking on the kids and giving them a last kiss.

The point is that we don’t have to think about it, we just do it. We can have good habits (flossing our teeth, stretching daily etc) and bad habits (biting our nails, smoking, etc).

Harnessing the power of habits can be a great asset in life. Apparently research says it takes 21 days to build a habit, after that it becomes automatic. I’m not too sure about the timing. I have been on diets longer than 21 days that have never become automatic, but let’s work with that number for now.

And this is where the streak comes in. Jerry Steinfeld used this technique for writing jokes. He had a big wall calandar by his desk and every day he wrote a joke he put a big red ‘X’ on that day. As the days built up he had a chain. Missing a day would mean breaking the chain, and he really didn’t want to break the chain. (Read more about this here)

We can use the power of the streak to get us into new good habits, or to extinguish old bad habits. Can I go 3 consecutive days without biting my nails? Now can I make it a week? 10 days? And so on….don’t break the streak! There is a community of runners doing this and some have more than 40 YEARS (!) of consecutive days running under their belts! Now that is a streak!

I have decided to join in and go for a running streak. At first I shall try running daily for a week. If all goes well, I will try for 10 days. I would really like to get to 100 days, just because! I will follow the rules of The United States Running Streak Association. A minimum of 1 mile a day, unaided. Most days I would go further, of course, but that is the minimum.

You can record your streaks in several ways. The Luddites would probably prefer a chart or calendar, you can always use different colours for different habits, and the technologically minded may prefer an iPhone app like Lift. But go ahead give it a try, and let me know how you do.

Anyone else up for a running streak? Let’s start today and see how far we can get. I’m off to  run now…day 1 of my streak!

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