Ian was ready to respond. A recent injury had changed his perspective. If you are bedside with an injury, this one is for you.
“I discovered on New Year’s Eve that I
had two fractured vertebrae (they had been fractured for some months
apparently and I’d continued running with occasional back pain!) So this
last month has been really tough – a week in hospital in traction (face
down, it was sheer hell) followed by kyphoplasty on one of the fractures
and then four weeks in a back brace, I went through some of the most
depressing days wondering if I’d ever be able to run again.
Like many people, running is for me not just about the feel good
endorphin-related factor although I do love that post run glow, how clean
you feel having sweated out a good 10 miles then cooled off and showered –
nothing beats that. But also, the job I do is quite stressful in an
operational environment where I need to be contactable around the clock.
The 60 to 90 minutes I get with my phone left at home, iPod on and just me,
running out in the countryside where I live, this is my saviour, my one
thing for me, my single disconnect from the neediness that is work. So you
can see potentially losing that was not something I wanted to face up to.
On Saturday, the back brace came off… and tonight I just did my first run
– just a 10.5km and not going to break any records. But the feeling’s still
there and I consider myself very, very lucky.
1. Why are you running?
I get a lot out of running on many different levels. Primarily, I have a
stressful job with long hours in an operational environment managing a team
of more than 20 people across Europe and North America. This team supports
also our customer base. The nature of the job means that I need to be
available pretty much 24×5 and at weekends during the day, for both
internal calls when there are issues and customer escalations. At home, I
have three dogs and five horses – a wonderful life really, split between
city and countryside and I certainly can’t complain. That said, whilst the
animals are absolutely life-enriching, they are another dependency and I
sometimes feel with the combination of work and dependencies at home a bit
like that dad you see at the fairground with the little child pulling on
his hand incessantly going ‘dad, dad, dad, dad, dad….’ (though I don’t
have children). Running is ‘my time’. It’s the 60-90 minutes five or so
days per week that it’s me, my music and the countryside where I live – in
sun, snow, rain, fog – I love it whatever the weather, however I’m feeling
when I go out for the run – depressed or stressed with work, worried about
any of the animals, down about some repair work to do on the house…
nothing, but nothing fixes any problem like running does. The time to
think, to be selfish, to be on my own, go where I want, leave my phone at
home – the sense of having worked the body afterwards and finally the
absolute feeling of cleanliness only sweating on a long run followed by a
good shower can provide. I enjoy running races some weekends but, for me,
the day to day is what it’s all about.
2. What got you started?
I started out around 15 years ago – a late one in my late 20s. A guy at
work challenged me to run a marathon the following year. I took it
seriously, stopped smoking (I know, I know!), turned vegetarian for a time
– though I was never overweight I got far healthier than before and I ran
that London marathon three years on the trot and am still running now. The
challenger, for his part, reneged on it and never ran a step!
3. What keeps you moving when things get tough?
Difficult one. Things got very tough recently – I’d had a couple of months
of back pain and when I finally went to the doctor about it, was diagnosed
with two fractured vertebrae they say had been there for some time – and
I’d been running half marathons regularly, travelling intercontinental with
work, riding and mucking out my horses… it was a shock but more so when I
ended up in traction, face down in hospital, for several days. The feeling
of isolation and imprisonment not being able to move was pretty
unbelievable. It’s hard to think what kept me going then, when I thought I
may never run again. It was probably the kind of mantra repeating what is
so important to me about running – the day to day part of it. I remember
thinking that, as hard as it may be, I can stop running races at weekends,
I don;t have to be able to do 10 or 20 miles, I just need those feelings of
freedom and independence and I know I can get them if I can just do 10km
then that would be enough. Feeling the total opposite of what running gives
me (i.e. imprisoned and restricted) just magnified how running makes me
feel and I was simply determined not to give in to what the doctors were
saying, which was to change my job so less travel, sell my horses and swap
running for knitting (yes!!!) I think the massive determination and “I can
do it” attitude all of us runners have when you’re near the end of a tough
race goes a long way into other areas of life and it must just be what got
me through. I’m back running again now since just a few days ago 🙂
4.. What has running taught you that you apply to business/work? And how do
you apply it?
I think the biggest thing is that when running, you’re in for the long
haul. You won’t run a marathon next week if up until today you’ve only ever
done 5k. There’s never a quick fix to an injury or a problem, it has to be
careful, considered. Don’t diagnose yourself when you have a problem –
you’ll only make it worse by fobbing yourself off and carrying on.
All of this is applied to my work, in the environment I work in, there are
quick and dirty fixes to problems, but they don’t last – the same as your
body won’t last if you don’t treat it right and take care of it, see a
specialist when you need and take the time to make it the best it can be.
We want our product to be the lowest latency network, the highest
bandwidth, the least amount of downtime, the best. Well in running, we all
want to be winners, the fastest pace, the lowest injury rate… but it
takes time and care and lots of patience. It translates pretty well into
what we do in our business – I’m always persuading colleagues to take up
running – around 50% of my team now, and still going 😉