‘Crisis? What Crisis?’ was an LP released in 1975 by the Rock Band, Supertramp (a very under-rated Group IMO) and it’s a great album, with a title I’ve always loved. Sadly, Supertramp are no more but the album remains as a record of their existence – I’ve always thought it should have been called ‘Crisis? What-Mid-Life Crisis?’ as it would then have been a perfect anthem not only for myself, but for many of the folk that enter my world.
Speaking as the original ‘Mid-Life-Crisis’ Man – my first one (and I’ve had a few) was way back in 1993 at the relatively early age of 31. It proved to be more than a mega-kick up the backside and became a completely life-changing process. You can read about it in detail in my book if you want to know the full story...
Anyway, now I’m 55, I can safely say that as I passed my 40th and 50th Birthday’s, I went through a similar process and although it shaped my future, at the time it got me looking at life in the rear-view mirror, reflecting.
Leading up to any BIG Birthday, especially your 40th, it’s virtually impossible not to look back on the 20 years’ since you were 20. A mere click of the fingers most will agree and it’s a regular topic of my working day, as I meet lots of 40-ish folk in ‘Mid-Life-Crisis’ mode hoping that running the ‘Marathon des Sables’ will help them discover who they really are, and what the world around them is really all about. I know how that feels and luckily it worked for me in 1999, for the better I believe.
It does for lots of the folk I coach but with varying degrees of sustainability I hasten to add. You see, at the time, it’s amazing to see the transformation that the desert brings about in folks. However watching the steady ‘return to type’ as the extreme experience and goodwill is erased once everyday reality is again normality, is a shame.
A real shame it’s not an everlasting change, that’s how I see it.
It’s a weird process to experience and on my return from the 1999 MdS, I had what I now call ‘Post Traumatic Race Disorder’. If you are a recent MdS Vet, you’ll know what I mean - We just kept those kinda feelings to ourselves back then and just ‘Toughened up Buttercup’ and soldiered on. Broadcasting one’s inner-feelings and weaknesses and on a Social Media Soapbox, well that would have been HUGE ‘NO-NO’.
Showing signs of weakness - Well that's weak.
Yet in the years since and I’ve broadcasted a lot about my own feelings and thoughts especially in the lead up to my 1000thMarathon this Sunday at the Robin Hood Marathon in Nottingham. And just like my 31st, 40th and 50th Birthdays it’s of course had me looking at the past 23 years’ in my rear-view mirror. For sure it will be a day of celebration as I’ll be running this marathon surrounded by my family and my friends but it will also be a day of closure – the completion of an ethereal 1000-Piece Marathon Jigsaw.“What will you do when you reach the magic 1000?” That’s the question that everyone’s been asking me and my reply has been a very simple, “Well I’m going to carry on, as this is what I do and it’s what makes me – ME.” To be honest, I’m not sure what I’m meant to say about it but that’s the best I can offer so far, it's just another marathon isn't it? In reality, I’m past the 1000 and on with other life-aspirations and life-goals. Being stuck on 976 for so long last year was a real killer.
Hopefully on reading this, and if you know me well, you’ll get that…
You’ll get me, where I’m coming from and understand where I’ve been and what I’ve been doing all these years running 29,267.1 miles in marathon bite-sized chunks. Not necessarily physically but mentally. Someone recently described me as Durable and Enduring – it’s a fair assumption of my character and as I pass this marathon milestone, I think it’s important to convey what I’ve learned about myself over the years of running 26.2 miles or more every 8.35 days.
The BIG thing is I’ve learned is an inner calm and self-acceptance, especially following last year’s Guillain-Barré Syndrome escapade and I am fully aware that my running has been the most self-indulgent thing I could have possibly have done, in fact it’s been extremely self-indulgent and in some areas of my life, I’ve paid dearly. However, for it to be my therapy, it was the only way I could see of getting me through. I simply just wouldn’t still be here and it wouldn’t have been such a successful form of self-management and self-development if I hadn’t been so black or white without a single shade of grey (let alone 50 of them!) about the way I've conducted myself.
You see, when I left most of my life behind to sort out the mess I’d made and started running, folk thought I’d flipped. They did for a long time but as I started to succeed, made my mark, complete bigger challenges and stuck to my new life-resolutions folk noticed. It was such a liberating and positive experience. Projecting that positivity to others, has proven to be the real bonus and an unforeseen gift from my marathon experiences, especially from the mega-day pilgrimages. I now use this as the main theme in my daily Coaching Practice. Thank heavens for the internet as I now have a steady stream of daily emails and Facebook messages from folk wanting to know how to go about going through the same process of change and take the same radical paths I chose to take. It’s humbling that folk invite me into their inner worlds and let me help them regain control again. I love fixing people - being broken myself many times really helps.
It’s weird to have ended up being a teacher as I’d never set out to be one, or run a marathon, let alone 1000 of them. All I knew was that I needed to change and the moment I ran those first few steps, I knew I’d found my therapy and my salvation. It’s something I’ll consider over the last few miles on Sunday as I reflect on the journey so far and will again no doubt in five-years-time when I’m 60 and ready for another ‘Crisis? What-Mid-Life Crisis?’ and take time out again to write to you about my experience all over again. So beware.
The Marathon count isn’t the important thing here, it’s been about me being happy with me and that’s what counts. Any achievement along the way has just a bonus and a bi-product of running 26.2 miles or more 999 times, so I’ve been lucky there too.
Changing and taking the plunge?
Well, it’s not scary. It's not. I found it to be an exhilarating, mind expanding journey that I can whole-heartedly recommend. "It’s always better to regret something you’ve done rather than something you haven’t", it’s one of my favourite mottoes and I’ve quoted it to many clients and to myself a thousand times over.
So, if you are teetering on the edge of the ‘Precipice of Change’, as I was all those marathons ago - pick a date, set yourself a goal (even one of jogging just 100 steps) and see where it takes you. You never know where it might lead, which is the exciting part and if you need some help to release you from your current nightmare or in need of a push to achieve a personal goal, PB or life-dream, then I’m your man.
999 Marathons - 244 Ultras - 14 Marathon des Sables - 9 Guinness World Records
1 Hell of a Journey
Location: Cardiff, Wales.