Uncover your inner athlete!

Every morning in Africa a gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be eaten.. Each morning in Africa a lion awakes - it knows it must run faster than the slowest gazelle or it will starve.

No matter if you are the lion or the gazelle, when the sun comes up you had better be running!

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Downsizing and living more simply

2012 I have dedicated as the year where I downsize more and get rid of loads of the things that I either don’t need or haven’t used in forever and a day.

Granted I don’t own heaps of things and don’t horde junk for the sake of it, but was thinking that things are starting to creep up on me and if I ever have to relocate it is much easier with less stuff. How much stuff do we really need to be happy and content in life? It is definitely a Western tendency to buy of heaps of things that we don’t need merely for the sake of acquiring things.

The one thing that I was having trouble with was thinning out all the merchandise, t-shirts, caps, towels etc that come courtesy of completing an event these days. Unlike the old days, these are now all technical garments meaning that effectively they will last forever no matter how hard you are on your clothing.

So what to get rid of out of this lot? Each garment has its own tale that it can tell, but naturally I can’t keep all of them and I don’t really want to part with them as they don’t have the same relevance to someone who didn’t do the event.

I have not purchased any running gear in the past 3 years due to having too much of it already and with each event overflowing one with more and more.

Any ideas on how to solve this dilemma?

Running together (while downsizing and living closer to the Earth) stride for stride on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller

Using my past to help others

Everyone likes a good news story -something that people can relate to and hopefully something that can bring about some positive change in those that may need.

I was given the chance this past week to share my story in the local media about my 40KG weightloss as part of a campaign to publicise the very well organised Sydney Running Festival. I am fortunate enough to know the organiser as a friend and am always happy to give a positive plug to him and the positive work that his team does in the running community.

There are always queries of me through this forum as well as from friends and other contacts about my story and I think it important to keep reminding myself of those days, not only to help others, but also as a reminder of a time that I don’t ever want to go back to.

I am confident that I am never going back to those days, but can only hope that through sharing my story, others to will be able to turn their lives around for the positive.

Running together (while sharing tales of past days) - stride for stride on a life changing ride. -- Sean Muller

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Increasing participation for success

For a number of years I have been advocating that the way to increase activity in athletics amongst all of society is to provide increase access to good facilities. What do I mean by this?

Quite simply each time we build a stadium we should be also laying a track around it. This is common practice in Europe and North America and hence you find even the most obscure stadiums in residential areas that have tracks around them. This means that all of society has access to these facilities and are not stuck for areas to exercise. It provides a safe environment for all and something different for those for whom the gym is a place they get intimidated by.

Ron Clarke and John Landy have been campaigning for this for many years and even costed it up for the Government some time ago and the overall cost is not that much more than merely building the stadium.

Perhaps something to consider in the push to increase the medal tally in the track and field at the next Olympics. Grassroots access to build interest and convert it into success.

Running together (while building grassroots interest) - stride for stride on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Race nerves and learning from mistakes

This morning I was chatting to a young lady who has started to work at the front desk of my gym. She informed me that she was planning to run her first half marathon in September at the Blackmores Half Marathon in Sydney.

Discussing her race strategy, she was musing about how much she should be drinking along the way. This got me thinking back to my own first half marathon where I was so unfit an unprepared that I had to stop at 11KM and vomit. I still remember things vividly as I had just purchased a new white long sleeve top to run in (it was freezing) and had a lady ask me if I was alright when I stopped. She also of all things was interested in me not messing up my new top by saying something like ‘Son don’t vomit on your shirt'.

I probably drank too much during that event myself and had no pacing strategy of any sort and hence the vomiting (but I suppose we have to start from somewhere).

Asked on my advice on drinking, I advised the young lady against carrying a hydration pack so that she wasn’t weighed down unnecessarily. One can easily get by with a few sips from each aide station.

Obviously one will rarely ever get things completely right as a novice, but we go away from each event with some more knowledge about ourself, our body and how we might improve in the future. This is what keeps running fun.

Running together (while continuing to learn), stride for stride on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller

Monday, August 20, 2012

Defying all odds and refusing to giveup

Every so often in the running community you come across stories of people who despite incredible hardship and pain inflicted on them just stubbornly refuse to give in and are fighting back. They are the true heroes of humanity. They are the ones who characterise the running community and show what we are truly capable of.

I first encountered the story of a brave young lady by the name of Turia Pitt. Turia was one of the runners who was caught in the horrific bush fire in the Kimberly region of Western Australia in the Racing the Planet event. Racing the Planet despite being hopelessly unprepared for the event and ignoring warnings about the fire being close to the running trail, have now proceeded to try and shirk the responsibility for the injuries to the runners in question. This is unforgiveable really and I am part of a group who hope that not only is the company forced to pay damages, but that no one in the running community supports them ever again.

Turia has demonstrated the power of the human spirit and is rising above and fighting back.

I saw her last night on 60 minutes and encourage you to watch her incredible story on the link below.

Running together (while witnessing the true human spirit) - stride for stride on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Family tree of good distance runners

I was most interested to learn through various literature that I have been reading that although all the theories about the East Africans being great distance athletes as a result of living at altitude their entire lives is only partly true. 

Almost exclusively when one looks at great distance athletes through the ages, they are mainly born and raised in rural or farming areas. The poorer these individuals are (regardless of if they are East African or not), the more likely they are to succeed at long distance running. This theory is backed up by Brother Colm the Irish chap who even in his 70s still coaches some of Kenyas worldclass athletes. He states that in all his time in Kenya he has not witnessed a athlete from the big cities become a success. 

Why the success of these folks from rural/farming areas? Quite simply because they are used to hard work and struggle and that is what long distance running is all about. City folk just don't have this inherent hardness bred into them from birth. 

Sure there will be exceptions to this rule, but I would wager that in the future this trend will continue regardless if the athlete in question is born in Africa or in the west. 

Running together stride for stride on a life changing ride. - Sean Mu

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Soft western nations

This past week of training and holidaying out in Hong Kong, I have observed in action some things that I have long suspected. The key one being that the Chinese have a far greater work ethic than we do in the west and that this indeed carries through to their sports and subsequent success at the Olympics.

Sure they didn’t win many medals in the track and field, but were cleaning up in just about every other sport available. How do they do it? There have been numerous cries of doping ever since Ye Shiwen their young 16 year old female swimmer left most elite men for dead in her wake in the first week of competition. History and science says that this should just not be possible ranted those in the know - hence she must be doped up to the eyeballs on some East German type steroids.

What those critics fail to mention is that China has adopted a real efficient business-like approach to producing champions. Firstly they went after many good coaches in the west (including many Australian swim coaches) and secured their services through paying these people a decent wage for their expertise. Secondly and perhaps most importantly they have a natural respect for the coach and trainer in China and comply implicitly with what is asked of them. This must have been something completely new for some of the western coaches who moved over there.

We have no less talent here in the west than the Chinese do, but what we do have is a lack of people who are willing to really hurt to make it count. Our athletes are too fond of playing video games or posing with celebrities for photos on twitter when they should really be putting aside those mobile phones and focusing more on their sport.

All too often the western approach to sport is the following: First I will go get drunk and maybe land in some trouble, then I will chat up some girls and maybe land in some more trouble, then I might shoot some commercials and send some tweets - then some more tweets and finally I might do some training just if I feel like it mind you.

Chinese approach - work hard, then work harder - then work harder still and then finally come home with the gold medal. No molly coddling - no mucking around. It is so true that hard work and discipline will win over sheer talent all the time. When you combine the talent and hard work then you get the type of swimmer of the calibre of Ye Shiwen.

Running together (with better work ethic) stride for stride on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Calling it like it is - no mucking around!

Running with the local squads here has opened my eyes to the differences in culture to attain success. In the west it is severely frowned on to insult peoples weight. We are taught to molly coddle each other - fat is big boned and other such political correctness. 

Now as many know, my own weight loss was sparked by insults from friends who called it like it is. This worked for me and I have worked extremely hard to lose the 40kgs that I have over the past years. Now at 67Kgs and 7% body fat, I thought that there was nothing wrong with how I was progressing. That was until this week.

The Chinese coach of the squad I was running with here in Hong Kong commented that I was not bad for a white guy, but that I need to lose some more weight if I want to keep up and get better - 'Too fat' - there you have it folks - no molly coddling that one. 

There have been criticism of Chinese athletes at the recent Olympics, but they clearly push their athletes who comply and as a result attain good results. It is my view that perhaps we have become a little soft all round in the west enjoying the good life too much. 

I witnessed an 85 year old Chinese man this evening running at 5minutes 30 per KM at the track. He had not an inch of fat on him. All I had to say was 'Wow'. 

Running together (while experiencing different coaching techniques) - stride for stride on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller

Using running to transcend language barriers

Having for the past couple of days been running with various squads and by myself over at Happy Valley in Hong Kong, I am so glad that I found this place on Monday. 

The people at the track are very friendly and even though some of them dont speak massively great English, they all smile and say hi. They have been very welcoming of me into their particular groups and it just goes to show the power of running the world over. 

An initial comment about the weather - it has not been below 30c this week (even at midnight) and the humidity is at about 90% and above each day. 

To put it bluntly, this makes last year's Sydney Marathon seem like child's play. 

I admit that the running here seems to be of a much higher and more serious standard than in Sydney. They don't muck about and when they run they run hard and fast until some fall over or vomit. One of the chaps translated the coaches comments as such - 'just run as hard as you can until you fall over'. I guess it does not come much simpler than that really in terms of understanding what is being said and implementing it. Simple but seemingly very effective at producing results. 

Now I may not understand all that she yells at us about, but I do know from translations and also just through figuring it all out from body language that she means business. They listen and again this hard long fartleking favoured by the Asian countries seems to deliver for them and as the saying goes. 'If it ain't broke don't try mend it'.

I am going to try and bring some of this learning back to my own teaching and running in Sydney. I figure though that it may be a little hard as we seem very reluctant to take the hard road in the west and want everything very easily in life. 

Running together (Hong Kong style) - stride for stride on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller

Running in Hong Kong

This week in Hong Kong has been positively one of the best of my life. It has been truly awesome to just cruise around this great place and just get lost in a way. 

My last visit to HK was with my ex and left alot to be desired, but not to dwell in the past, this time it has been very good indeed.  That was then and this is now.

Last sunday I headed off for a run in the hills and up to Bowen Road , a very popular running route. The running scene here is very strong indeed and even some of the older blokes in their 60s were keeping well up with the younger crowd on what were some extremely steep hills. The group were amazed at me being able to keep up in conditions that I can only describe as being like running in a Turkish Bath. 

Then thanks to a very helpful fellow runner, I was pointed in the direction of Happy Valley race course as a place where one can do laps and intervals safely without traffic. I felt for the fellow who was being asked all sorts of questions as if by virtue of being an expat meant he was subjected to a life of questions from tourists like me. 

I was very impressed by the facilities on offer for free including hockey, soccer  and various other sports. 

In the interests of keeping this shortish, I will provide further updates soon. Need less to say that those saying Hong Kong doesn't have a vibrant running and sports scene needs to think again. 

Running together (while exploring overseas), stride for stride on a life changing ride! -- Sean Muller