Friday, 7 July 2017

Listen


When they go out running a lot of people plug in their earphones ... it can be enjoyable running along to your favourite music while for others its about performance rather than experience ... running regardless ... cutting yourself off from the world around you - you might as well be on a treadmill in the gym or in some virtual reality simulation.

I've never run with earphones - preferring instead to listen to the world around me as I run through it ... the animals and the people ... bird song, children playing, snippets of conversation and even the silence of a remote area on a hot still summers day.  On some busy roads I wouldn't mind having earplugs let alone earphones although in such circumstances its important to listen .. to hear as well as see if a car is slowing down as you both approach a junction or to hear that car that comes up behind you to turn left across your path at the junction ahead.

"The art of conversation lies in listening." 
 ~ Malcom Forbes

Don't run regardless .. its important not only to listen to the world around you but to listen to yourself - listen to your mind and your body before, during and after a run and adjust according to what you "hear". That little niggle in your ankle .. should you skip the run until its gone or start off slowly and adjust or stop as you go along. How do you feel ... listen and adjust ... go further or more challenging if you are "up for it" or if feeling tired or not in the mood ... adjust ... run easier and see how it goes. Keep listening to yourself and keep adjusting - is it easier running more upright, or with shorter strides, feeling tired .. what happens if you put in a faster burst  ... experiment, listen, adjust, listen.

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.” 
~ Dalai Lama

"Wisdom is the reward you get for a lifetime of listening when you'd have preferred to talk.
~ Doug Larson


As in running so in life ... 

"If You Want to be Understood...Listen" 
~ tag line of the film Babel

I can't help thinking that ears look a lot like question marks ... listen ... don't just hear ... listen to learn  ..an active listener asks questions.

“We have two ears and one mouth, so we should listen more than we say.” 
― Zeno of Citium

Don't just live regardless ... stop, look, listen and learn - develop situational awareness - have a conversation with the people and the world around you and with yourself and adjust accordingly. 

"We have two ears and one tongue so that we would listen more and talk less.

"We have mouths that close and ears that don't, that must tell us something"




Sunday, 25 June 2017

Look



"You can observe a lot by just watching" ~ Yogi Berra 

If you are only interested in measuring stuff you might as well do it in a lab where conditions are stable .. measure your speed, distance, heart rate etc with your head down looking at the treadmill in a gym.

If you are running outside then you may as well make the most of it ... take a look around. Running is human powered movement at the speed of thought - it's a wonderful way to discover your community and to see the world around you.

I like seeing how the scenes I run through change over time  ... how people and places change with the seasons. A park in winter might be empty, wet and grey or crisp and bright with frost or snow. A park in summer might be full of life and colour - full of people, flowers and animals .. birds, insects, dogs etc. Its all part of our world and so easy to miss if you keep you head down.

While running I like looking out for new routes, things of interest and places to explore  .. wondering where a path might lead and if not taking it at random this time then noting it for another time.  

"Look out" ... looking around is essential to keep yourself safe ... particularly  along roads and especially at junctions. So many times motorists like to get ahead of you so that for some perverse reason you don't hold them up but making eye contact with them behind the wheel helps humanise them and they usually slow down to let a runner across ... you are faster than a pedestrian anyway and don't take that much time. You haven't got mirrors so be sure to listen out and look behind to check a car isn't coming up to turn across you if you are approaching a junction in the same direction as the traffic.

"To acquire knowledge, one must study; but to acquire wisdom, one must observe." ~  Marilyn vos Savant



If you keep your head down and treat life as a race to be run, then when the race has been run the race is all you will have known. On the journey of life look around and appreciate the people, places and the world you live in as you 

If you keep your head down you will miss seeing new things, opportunities and directions ... you will just keep running the same race and everyday will be groundhog day.

When things get tough its tempting to "hunker down", put the "nose to the grindstone" and plough on. Putting your "nose to the grindstone" can make things worse ... it can be like putting your head in the sand but focusing on the ground under your nose means you will not see the way the path goes further ahead .. not realising you are going round in circles or that you might run into a dead end, a brick wall or worse. It's often better to go heads up, zoom out, see the bigger picture see where the path goes and what other paths lay ahead.


I see trees of green, red roses too
I see them bloom for me and you
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

I see skies of blue and clouds of white
The bright blessed day, the dark sacred night
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

The colors of the rainbow so pretty in the sky
Are also on the faces of people going by
I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They're really saying I love you

I hear babies crying, I watch them grow
They'll learn much more than I'll never know
And I think to myself what a wonderful world

Yes I think to myself what a wonderful world"

What A Wonderful World









Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Stop

Ray Mathews having a sit down .. at 75 he ran 75 marathons in 75 days

When I first started running I never stopped ... I had the idea in my mind that real runners didn't stop ... that it didn't count if you stopped. If you felt tired, had the stitch or some pain you just had to "man up" and run through it.  I was switching off to keep going and get the fastest times in that I could.

A conversation with a real runner (Liam O'hare) back in the summer of 2007 changed my attitude to running completely.

Liam running in the Men’s Surrey League Cross Country 16 January 2016

"Its OK to stop" ... coming from someone who had run marathons in under two and a half hours this went straight to my core and caused me to reassess what I had been doing and so I began a different journey with running ... rather keeping my head down and zoning out to achieve times or distance I started running in a whole new way ... I "zoned in" and enjoyed running a whole lot more and walked a bit or stopped when I needed to or when I just felt like it - to appreciate the scenery for example. On 15 mile runs I would walk for a couple of minutes or so around 11 miles just to keep moving but its only when I got caught in a thunderstorm and had to stop and take cover that I appreciated the rejuvenating effects of actually stopping for a bit. After a short stop I found it was almost like starting again.


Taking a break and stopping what you are doing is rejuvenating, refreshing and helps with new insights. I first found this out for myself when a student at university .. I would often find that I miraculously had a solution to a problem after taking a break to make a cup of coffee for example. I noticed this so many times that I deliberately take breaks when I'm not stuck and let my mind wander to let ideas new emerge from my brain's default mode network. I also deliberately take breaks with some random "noise" ... usually the radio - I'm a great believer in serendipity  ... some random word or phrase on the radio can lead to new insights.

You are not a machine ... you are human ... having a rest can work wonders.








Sunday, 7 May 2017

Patience




"life's short enough as it is without rushing it." ~ Terry Wogan


Running is an active sport and the temptation when you start or when you start off is to start running too quickly ... this is a common mistake unless you are sprinting or running short distances.

When you start your run your body has to go into overdrive to get things moving ... its like starting a car ... you start in first gear and the engine works harder with more revolutions per unit of distance -  if you accelerate too hard you will stall and If you start off your run too fast you might "stall" after a relatively short distance - slowing down or even stopping completely.

I start off at a comfortable pace, as I get older this is more of a slow jog - after about 10 minutes I find my "engine" has settled and I'm breathing less hard ... its like shifting to second gear - the running becomes a lot easier and I can either go a bit faster or just keep running gently. The time it tales me to find second gear depends on how much I have been running and how fit I am. If I'm unfit it takes me about 12 - 15 minutes to find second gear, if I'm fit it takes me about 8 minutes. After about 20 minutes things start to really flow ... I guess its like finding third gear or some form of cruise control - I  don't usually run any faster but instead run more easily and its on cruise control that running becomes a really enjoyable holistic experience - firing on all cylinders with mind and body in easy synchronisation.

As you run each time you get to know about your cruise control and how long it lasts ... after your cruise control has gone you have to shift back down the gears and the end of the run becomes like the beginning - it's harder work and more tiring.

Its a great feeling to end a run while still in cruise control but I usually try to stretch myself a little (or sometimes a lot) - as you stretch yourself your next run gets easier and your cruise control gets longer as your body adapts.


If you "make haste slowly" and play the long game .. you might "lose the battle but win the war". There are a lot of fairy tale moral stories about playing the long game - for example the Three Little Pigs and in terms of running the Tortoise and the Hare is the obvious example.


"Patience is also a form of action." ~ August Rodin


Have patience - running and life is a series rather than a blockbuster - its an open ended novel you write as you go along - it has twists and turns and bumps along the way - don't be put off by problems, difficulties or failure - they are learning experiences along the way ... "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger" :)

“Anyone who has never made a mistake has never tried anything new” ~ Albert Einstein



Saturday, 6 May 2017

Why Run

Why do anything?

We all have our own reasons ... for me its for the sensation - Its a wonderful feeling while running and afterwards too. Its a holistic mind, body and environment thing ... the feeling of being at one - with oneself and the world ... losing yourself in the moment ... enjoying the journey. The destination is enjoyable too - the endorphin high and relaxed feeling after a run is wonderful.

Anything that gets you out and about is good walking, cycling, sport and games ... I'm not talking about running in a gym here.

I think running is travelling at the speed of thought .. its good to clear the mind but most of my runs are like brainstorms .... trouble is my memory is so bad that I can't remember the great ideas by the time I get back. However, some of the little ideas stay in my mind and I'll write up the ones about running here.

The reasons we do things are important ... there is a big difference between being driven and being motivated. Being driven is an external force .. you are driven ... its something you have to do, it chases and pushes you ... usually through necessity. Being motivated is an internal force, its a choice, its an attraction to something rather than a push from something.

Being motivated is a lot more enjoyable than being driven and leads to a deeper and longer lasting experience and motivation leads to better learning.

Driving is easier than motivating and superficial management is full of "driving" metaphors .. "driving change", "driving growth" ... but at what cost ..... its driving us mad!


Now Is The Time


If you are thinking about running or if you feel like running then now is the time ... don't put it off to another day ... "just do it".

"Strike while the iron is hot"

Sometimes it can be your body that feels like it ... if so "just do it" ... let your mind follow ... this is always the best way as at least your body seems OK and you can't do the run without your body:) Sometimes it can be your mind that feels like it .... if so "just do it" ... mind over matter ... let your body follow - it will catch up but be sure to listen to your body and take care. If both your mind and body feel like it then you are lucky - this is the best way to run .. mind and body in harmony and if you don't run too far or too hard then they will still be in harmony at the end of the run :)


"Life is what happens to us while we are making other plans.”  Allen Saunders

If you have a pair of trainers and a pair of shorts and your feel like it then you have no excuse .. just put on an old T-shirt and you are ready. Make sure you have a pair of running trainers though - other sports trainers will be a a problem but cheap running trainers are just fine - mine cost £15 from Decathlon a few years ago and I've done nearly 1,000 miles in them!


"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step."
 - Lao Tzu

You know yourself best so start with a short run you are comfortable with - round the block, to the park and back .. .it doesn't matter how far or how long it takes or if you walk or even stop for some of it - the most important thing is to make it enjoyable .. this isn't meant to be work or hard labour.

Start small and easy - its good if you have a circular route so that if you need to you have a plan B .. a short cut back to the start. When the time feels right go a bit further.

My first run was a sort of oval route out towards a local park - this meant I could cut off and run a shorter oval if I needed to.
This run was the slowest and most exhausting I had done ... believe me - it gets easier each time you run. I repeated this run each weekend a few times - then added a little bit more each week - adding laps round the park and then going through the park and beyond adding a bit more each time until I was running half marathon distances every weekend and with serious hills as well!

Running lessons ...  the things you learn in life can be applied to running and the things you learn from running can be applied to life .. maybe I should have called this series of blog posts on running "zen and the art of running" :)

Its important to make a start ... you can try to plan everything to the last detail and try to get everything right and go for a "big bang" but things change and you may end up in a sort of planning procrastination and never actually get started. Get started early with small steps and build up. Be flexible, experiment and learn and adapt over time rather than start late with a big bang. 

Running Lessons

Learn to enjoy your run - enjoy the journey
Back in September 2007 I had an epiphany about measurement and wrote "Loneliness of the long distance educationalist". I realised that the reason I started running had been lost and replaced by measurement and analysis. 


We should be careful that the act of measuring an activity doesn’t become more important than the activity itself.

I started running to to get out in the open, get some exercise and see the area where I live. Trying to beat the clock on 2, 8 and 13 mile circuits meant I was deliberately "zoning out" to run through pain - disconnecting from my internal state and the environment I was running in.


Running against the clock - I might as well have been on a treadmill.

Measurement and performance analysis has its place in activities that involve competition, definition and repetition but I started running to explore my inner self and the outside world.Running against the clock - I might as well have been on a treadmill - this is the way some people like it but for me it wasn't the reason I was running outside. 

I realised that my experience of running with measurement is a lot like the experience in education with measurement - it changes the activity. Education cynically talks about the learning journey but in reality focuses tighter and tighter on (exam) results and the destination with ever greater levels of measurement and performance management.

Children  have a natural “thirst” for learning, experimentation and play but in so many this disappears and as they pass through the school system and like my running against the clock the purpose of education can be lost and spoilt by testing and measurement to such an extent that for many young people learning in school painful and alienating. The education system itself is possibly one of the causal factors in the problems we have with young people today.


The education system is configured and stuck in developing the workforce skills of the previous century

The education system is configured and stuck in developing the workforce skills of the previous century - what Harold Jarche calls ‘Labour’ - compliance, diligence, and intelligence for routine work and standardized jobs. Our education system has thunked down to measuring, testing and training routine and standardised skills on treadmills rather than education.


Our education systems need to change radically to focus on learning rather than labour.

Rapid changes in technology are causing life to become anything but routine and standardized. The information revolution is just getting started and there is the potential for radical change and uncertainty ahead  - our future generations will need the skills to adapt to the unknown and deal with uncertainty. Routine and standardised skills and work are expected to be dis-intermediated by new technology - learning is the key survival skill for an unknown and uncertain future and our education systems need to change radically to focus on learning rather than labour. 

For the sake of our future the education system needs to be able to learn and be able to change. The education system must find a way to accommodate and not just assimilate and it must accommodate curiosity, creativity and imagination as well as more easily tested and measured rational analytical behaviours.

I run to learn and I am still learning to run - I will be writing a short series of blog posts about this called "running lessons" - lessons for life and the world of education.

Reference
"connected curiosity" ~ Harold Jarche

Zen And The Art Of Running

A bit like a buddhist monk holding up a flower and asking you to see the whole world ... here are my running shoes :)

I started this journey of thinking about what I can learn from running back in September 2007. bit like Zen and the Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance I was feeling there was more to running than just running.  More recently I have been scribbling down little snippets of ideas but never having time to write them up so here goes ... a new Blog dedicated to "Zen and the art of running" called "Run Lessons" as that's the only relevant blogger name left for me to use - zenrun, runzen, run2learn and a whole lot of others being taken.
The blog that start it all was published on Wordpress on September 8, 2007 - I've included it below:


Don’t forget the Journey  (It’s a Zen Thing)
One of the activities I like is running and over the last few years I have been trying to get my times down on 2, 8 and 13 mile circuits. This involves hard effort, recording split times post run analysis and a focus on identifying the problems and areas that slow me down.
Recently I wanted a good run, didn’t have the time for a long run but didn’t feel like the pain of a 2 mile run against the clock so decided on a new route with steep hills. What a refreshing experience this was – to run a new circuit with no previous time to compare against although I did recorded the time for the next run on this circuit.
Today I set of for a run again but of a different kind – I didn’t set the clock and I decided only roughly where I would go – that I would “explore” a little and adjust the run as it progressed. What a pleasure this was and it reminded me why I started running in the first place – to get out in the open, to get some exercise and to see some of the area around where I live. This made me realise that the reason I started running had been lost and had been overtaken by the activity of measurement and analysis. Now I am looking forward to exploring a new route in next week’s run.
Measurement and performance analysis has its place in certain activities – these usually involve competition, definition and repetition. We should be careful however that the act of measuring an activity doesn’t become more important than the activity itself and that measurement is a valid and appropriate thing to do for an activity.
Whilst out running I couldn’t help thinking about performance measurement (tests) and the effect these have had on education.  In the controversy over the better grades achieved today I believe this is down to teaching and learning rather than easier tests – this can’t be surprising given today’s focus on measurement and testing and the hard work that goes into getting these results. However, we can ask just what it is that is being taught and learned – are we teaching a subject or are we teaching how to pass a test in that subject? What is education?
Children  have a natural “thirst” for learning, experimentation and play but in so many this disappears and as they pass through the school system and like my running against the clock the purpose of education can be lost and spoilt by testing and measurement to such an extent that for many young people learning in school painful and alienating. The education system itself is possibly one of the causal factors in the problems we have with young people today.
However, there are signs of change.
In the developing fast moving, information rich, “global” societies of the 21st century there is a need for people to develop better information management skills to research, evaluate, decide and communicate.  These general information management skills are a large part of what education (teaching and learning) is about and educational thinking asks us to look at ways to develop them in our students.
While we have to coach our students to do as well in educational tests as they can we can also try to develop and improve the educational experience itself (the journey) with the inclusion of information management and new teaching techniques. Education can be and should be enjoyable.
Now where are those trainers – I feel like another run.