It takes a good person with an intelligent idea
To stop a bad person with a stupid idea
Today started well.
I got to Waterloo, half awake as usual.
I got through the barrier to the sight of The Queen’s Guard playing.
Busy, smile and head off.
Or stop and listen.
I stopped and listened as they played.
A couple of hundred others did so too.
I got my tube to Canary Wharf and bought my poppy.
I always get one.
But I’ve never spent that much before.
Then I had a full on brilliant day.
Yesterday I did the Andover Park Run for the nth time with a fabulous array of people. I don’t do it as much as I used to but still appreciate this movement.
There are a handful of elite lunatics who sprint round in 16-18 minutes then a score or so of good runners at 18-22.
Then ~275 others including me, we vary from 23-61 minutes.
My best ever was 23:53, today was 27:42 (excuses = gin, a bottleneck in 3rd Km, an injured ankle and not being all that bothered about fast anymore).
People with dogs (actually, not on the winter course we did yesterday)
Obsessed people (I do the occasional event, go to the occasional fitness class, I always see these people, briefly in 2014 I think I was one, that’s when 23:53 happened).
Quiet people. (Where I think I am).
Show offs. (Where I probably am really).
Probably 2-3 psychopaths.
Injured people who can’t stay away and should probably volunteer while they get better.
And lots of other overlapping pigeon holes because it is full of ordinary people.
Most run, some jog, a few walk. A handful are athletes.
When I first went I was blown away by the diversity and the openness.
I still am.
There are fuss pots and busy bodies. Cake and coffee. There’s a lunatic who runs in flip flops and the man who set it up and who is always there whatever the weather, to whom I am silently grateful.
For me, there is a car park, some people watching and a bit of love for how awesome and varied people are. I occasionally do Newbury, once did Winchester and I particularly like the Christmas Day event in Leeds.
I used to be self conscious. Now I turn up, nod at a few people, smile at a few others, sometimes randomly chat to one or two more, but otherwise just run.
Then I go shopping in my silly knee length socks, drenched in sweat, with steamed up glasses, to buy mountains of vegetables from Kenyons a family run green grocers where it is impossible to spend more than £25. I have tried.
Park Run is an accessible 5K, fabulously diverse, simple and well organised. The bloke who invented it, who I think got a CBE or MBE, and who is stubborn by some accounts, ought to get a knighthood. As well as getting people fit, it gets them together in a way that is easy, it gets people into volunteering (even I have) and makes you feel great for the rest of Saturday.
I kept my trap shut publicly after our successful RAAM experience in June. I’ve talked to the team, family and close friends. To really understand it, you had to be there.
There was an interesting mix of characters, lots of little stories, challenges met, highs, lows and out right wonder at what we saw and experienced. There will be a book and video which will tell those stories.
The fund raising for ECPAT continues with the race as a powerful back drop. I’m fiercely proud of what we did and especially of why.
As some time has passed, it has all sunk in. Some lasting themes have surfaced. It appears to have changed me.
These themes don’t relate to the story or specific events or places. Nor to any particular individual. They relate to the nature of the experience and how that has changed how I think and behave.
The first thing to emerge was a sense of calm. At first I thought this just relative to the intensity of the race. It is now almost three months since we got back. I still feel calm, relaxed and simply quite happy.
The preparation, the race and the days of clear up after were a crucible. I’ve experienced a few before. They changed me too. This was easily the most intense. Bloody hell I enjoyed it.
We faced a hundred challenges in each stage. All had one thing in common. They simply had to be faced and resolved. Usually right there and then. Almost always with just the people and tools we had to hand. On perhaps just one occasion, I threw a little money at a problem, to buy a tool (that was not for sale, but in the tool kit of a bike shop) to fix a bike.
The unending sequence of problems nagged at me. Especially as we raced. There were so many, that at the back of my mind was this knowledge that at some point a problem may arise that we could not solve. There were a couple of times when that looked possible. On each occasion, we solved the problem and kept the team moving. Sometimes inelegantly, but always moving. We also kept getting better and better at the basics and at anticipating problems.
Through all that, there was a common theme that made the impossible, the stressful, oddly easy.
Put simply, there was nowhere to hide. No alternative than to work the problem, solve it, however clumsily, and move on.
Logistically, RAAM is a sleep management exercise with some extreme cycling thrown in to make it even harder. You get up every 16 hours as a rider and crew and every 8 hours as Crew Chief and on the RV team. Except when the crew send you to bed, as happened twice to me. Once after I’d got 2 hours sleep in 40 and again when I did something similar and had to just go sleep.
I learned a lot about fake work. You can’t waste time on RAAM.
I learned about the value of connections. Arriving somewhere new every 8 hours, we always made friends with whoever was there as a priority. We very often needed help and equally often gave it back. Competing teams helping each other out was literally a joy.
The way the team built trust and interdependence flowed straight out of the knowledge that there was mostly just us and that we knew conflict would kill us. The number of times I saw exhausted disagreement resolved through raw intelligence and the shared resolve to never ever give up was heart thumping to watch.
There was no let up. No leeway. There was just us and a few people we bumped into.
I’m sure that back at the office we’d have kicked the can, asked for more people, time or money.
It was a great lesson on what can be done when there is nowhere to hide.
I have lost count of how often I have to go back and read this again (usually when I don’t know the answer to a question):
I wrote this summary of Good To Great in 2012 I think. I look it up every now and then. I posted it here ages ago. Today I read it again. What a great book. Today I could replace the opening with something about how, I am on a train, thinking about work, I suppose.
“…I woke up at 0100 last night, thinking about work. This is rare. One of the more challenging aspects of my new role is establishing the facts about how it all works so we can confront and deal with them. “I need facts!”, I thought, as my mind raced and the LED clock seemingly stopped.
I remembered how important the confrontation of facts is in Good to Great by Jim Collins. I reckoned at 0100 that facts must be the most important bit, the idea that trumps all the others.
Then I remembered I’d clumsily…
View original post 583 more words