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Personal fun, not personal bests by Steve Fox

I started my last blog by saying that it felt as if the world had stopped and was struggling to get going again, much like running up and trying to recover from a big hill. Little did I know that when I started my next blog that war would have returned to Europe.

Day to day problems such as the cost-of-living pale into absolute insignificance. I am a believer that if you have the ability to help someone, you have the responsibility to. I have therefore frequently felt frustrated and sad at the prevailing situation and my inability to do anything to help other than make donations of clothes and money. In my last blog I quoted the punk/folk artist Frank Turner and I’m going to do so again:

The first time it was a tragedy

The second time is a farce

Outside it's 1933 so I'm hitting the bar

But I don't know what's going on anymore

The world outside is burning with a brand-new light

But it isn't one that makes me feel warm

Don't go mistaking your house burning down for the dawn

You’ll often hear football managers use the phrase, “you can only control the controllables”. Whilst that has all the hallmarks of a cliché, it is nevertheless true. I said last time that my perceived failure at an obstacle course race (OCR) had led to the return of my motivation and enthusiasm. I have twelve OCRs in the diary for this year, and I am looking forward to expediting my transition back to obstacle course running from the period Covid forced me into being a trail runner only.

Indeed, after having promised myself that I’d given up winter OCRs, I took a trip to Fife in January for MacTuff – its name is not an exaggeration. This proved to be my first event started with a hangover (that’s another story), however I also had the pleasure of running with a brand-new friend who was taking part in her first ever OCR – a hard place to start! My intention was to skip those obstacles with cold water dunkings given the near zero-degree wind chill, however my new buddy was having none of it, so I joined her at each opportunity.

Running injury
Half way round MacTuff 2022

Her sense of joy at the finish line at what she had accomplished was infectious and had no small impact on the ongoing rehabilitation of my own enthusiasm. Remember I said that the World Health Organisation defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity”? I ticked off all three in one event.

Taking back control is a phrase that has unfortunately been stolen by many feckless politicians, however it is a principal I have tried to adhere to since the recent loss of parents to cancer that I outlined in my last musings. Since then, I have passed that Level 2 Fitness Instructor course and am now suitably qualified. I have also effectively taken partial retirement and now only do my day job in financial services on Mondays Tuesdays and Wednesdays.

That’s not to say that I’ve become a man of luxury! My Thursdays now revolve around the to and from school runs with my granddaughter before taking her to dance class, as well as spending a chunk of the day with my grandson. I’ve yet to find a stronger enhancement to my mental wellbeing. I’m also giving thought as to how to put my new qualified fitness instructor status to use.

I’ve been clear in previous blogs that it is not elite athletes that inspire me, it’s those people starting out on, or returning to, the “fitness journey”. To initially provide variation to my own training, I started taking local Bootcamp UK sessions, however it has become more than that. It has provided a platform to make new friends and find more sources of inspiration. The coach has been generous enough to allow me to observe and provide coaching assistance in some sessions. This has given me as much enjoyment as taking part myself and again reinforced my overriding principle that everything must be fun first.

I intend to retire from financial services no later than my 60th birthday. At the time of writing this is 186 weeks, 5 days, 7 hours, and 15 minutes away – not that I’m counting. My plan is that by then I will have found my own niche in the fitness world where I can hopefully go some way to making a small positive difference.

In October last year I participated in Rocket Race OCR on the Dorset/Somerset border. Apart from the fact that its emergency protocols were instrumental in me surviving the heart attack that featured in my fourth blog, this has always been my favourite event. It is synonymous with that unbridled sense of joy and adventure that you experienced in your childhood that I believe is the cornerstone of OCR itself. It is therefore with no small amount of sadness that I will shortly be marshalling, and taking part in, the last one ever.

The Race Directors have poured their heart and soul into the event for more than five years, but they are themselves taking control by giving themselves opportunities to do things that their previous dedications have prevented. They have shown that the people with the most passion are not those that take part in events, but the ones that provide them as the platform for everyone else to participate. This is a key motivator for me in my entrance to the world of fitness provision as opposed to participation.

I have started every Rocket Race by standing at the exact spot where I had my heart attack, picking up some mud and rubbing it between my hands – it has been my way of saying thank you. There will be both a tear in my eye and a smile on my face when I do it for the last time.

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