Inspiration from a 100-year old

100 years ago, in 1912, the summer Olympics were held in Stockholm, Sweden.

On Sunday the 14th of July 1912 the Olympic Marathon was run with 69 participants. It was a hot day and many runners suffered from the heat, only half of them completed the race.

One of the 34 people who didn’t finish the race that day was the Japanese runner, Shizo Kanaguri. His “disappearance” created the “myth of the missing Japanese” and I remember growing up with the tales of what happened that hot summer day. Apparently he wasn’t feeling well due to the heat and the long travel through Russia he’d had to make to get to Sweden. He was invited into a family’s garden for lemonade and buns (typical Swedish cakes, most common version is the cinnamon roll). He stayed there and rested for a bit and then returned to his hotel, checked out and went back home to Japan.

For years afterwards there was apparently talk about what could have happened to him. What happened was that he became a very influential person in sports in Japan and went on to participate in two more Olympics in the 20’s, but for some reason people in Sweden still just knew him as the “Japanese who disappeared”.

He was finally tracked down by some Swedish journalist and was invited back to Sweden in 1967 to complete the marathon! He finally entered the Stockholm Stadium after almost 55 years and crossed the finishing line, making his marathon race the “longest in history”:-).

Yesterday it was exactly 100 years since the 1912 Olympic Marathon, and a 100th Anniversary Jubilee Marathon was run. This time there were almost 9000 participants (including a great grandson of Kanaguri!) running the same race (well almost, roads have changed in 100 years so they had to make some changes to the course).

I went to watch the race as the runners passed us twice on their way north to the turning point and then on their way south into the city again. It was just a couple of hundred meters from our house. And close by, near to the house where Kanaguri was offered lemonade and buns (the actual house is not there anymore), great grandchildren of the hospitable family were serving lemonade and buns to runners and spectators (including Kanaguri’s great grandson). The circle was completed.

I got so inspired!

There was so much joy, there were so many running styles, there were people who seemed to be having a great time and those who seemed to suffer, there were people with hats, without shoes, men in dresses (1912 style!), people holdings signs, wearing wigs – there was even a women dressed as Superwoman!

Watching the race was exactly the kick in the bum that I needed to get myself properly back on track for my race. So what if I’ve missed a few weeks of training!

And who knows, maybe I’ve got a Marathon in me in due course…..

Run now!

My app has guided me through a successful first running/training session!

It’s a beautiful morning and with the extra support of some good trance tracks (thank you Rich!), I had a very enjoyable fast walk (with some short running intervals) of about 40 minutes.

So what have I learned so far?

To be patient. Most training efforts fail because people are too much in a rush, want to overdo it, run a bit further, push themselves a bit harder – and then give up, because it feels too hard.  We have to crawl before we can walk – or in this case walk before we can run:-)

My second (renewed) insight from this morning is that most people don’t complete what they start because there are too many temptations to stop or do something different before you get to the goals. And one of the biggest culprit here is of course our own mind, our mind who keeps reasoning with us – “should I, shouldn’t I, maybe I should…instead” – well, you know how it works.

The key to completion is to stop the mind from even having this discussion with you – take away the option of doing something different. And just do it.

And this is exactly how my app is working. It, or she (I’ve named her Sam!) will tell me exactly when to walk and when to run – “Run now! – and all of a sudden that is no longer up to me and so I do it. Brilliant!

I made a commitment to myself, together with a couple of friends, that this was going to be the year of Completion – and it sure is looking that way! I don’t want to stop now.

Creating a new habit

I’m not sure what possessed me, but I have decided to start running.

And typical for me, I can’t just start running, I have to enter a running race. Oh no, not yet, it’s not until 1 September, but the clock has started ticking. 159 days to go.

So it’s high time for me to create a new habit, the habit of running. Like everything else it needs some discipline to create a new habit – determination and staying power.

To help me in my endeavor, I have enlisted the help of an iPhone app, which has promised to take me from “couch potato to 10K in 13 weeks”. It sounds just right actually, something that will tell me exactly what to do and when:-). But that is of course only part of the solution.

I will stop talking about myself as a non-runner. I have only recently realized that that’s exactly what I do. So my first step is to create a new self image when it comes to running:

I’m a runner!

I’m a runner!

I’m a runner!

There, I’ve started. It’s a small step, but our self image tends to have self-correcting power, so it’s a crucial step.

There’s loads more to come, and I’m ready – bring it on!

Why I love New Year’s Day


It’s not just because of the lie-in, or the all day pyjama fashion, or playing on the Wii, or watching good films on TV, or even pigging out on chocolote – although all of that is good too.

No, the main reason I love New Year’s Day is this – it has a great sense of clean, fresh start about it. Somehow the start of a new calendar year makes us realise that we can start something, something we’ve put off, something that’s important to us. We can wipe the slate clean, we can change something, we can find the energy to turn things around.

I don’t believe in “New Year’s resolutions” though. They tend to become a threat and a slow or fast journey to failure (as we somehow know – or have decided – that most resolutions fail).They could work though – if we called them something different and if we used them differently – as a great possibility, as an encouragement. Although this is not about resolutions….let’s get back to the magic of New Year’s Day.

You could argue that the problem with all other days is that it’s not New Year’s Day – that we don’t have that same sense of hope and opportunity that 1 January brings.

So I say, let’s make every day New Year’s Day! Every day is a fresh, clean start. It’s never too late or too early to act on our dreams, our aspirations, our interests.

Take this day with you throughout the year. Make every day New Year’s Day – keep the clear outlook, the hope and the drive. Learn from yesterday, take from it what you can, learnings, insights – and move forward with curiosity and joy. Anything can happen. What do you want to happen? And how will you make it happen?

I will start by treating myself to a leisurely day, full of joy and relaxation, and opportunities to recharge. If there is anything I will start this New Year’s Day with, it’s the continuous learning that to achieve anything, you need to take time to take care of yourself. Just like they say about the oxygen masks on planes – “before helping anyone else, please secure your own mask”. So true, so true – whatever we want to achieve, for others, for the world, for ourselves – we need to look after the instrument that is us, so that we have something to give. So it’s oxygen mask on for me. Go ahead, you do it too:-)

You, a creative force

Set of conceptual firework units

Do you consider yourself creative? I hope so, as I’m sure you are.

Very few people consider themselves creative though, as somewhere along the line they have gotten comfortable with what is, or they tried something and maybe weren’t recognised for it, or didn’t feel it led to anything, or worse – they were slammed for it.

Kids are endlessly creative, both in mind and in expression. Listen to a kid’s fantasy stories, where everything is possible and watch them draw the most beautiful drawings where there are no rules!

And as Ken Robinson very aptly describes in his fabled TED talk, over time we learn to become non-creative. If you haven’t seen it, here it is and it’s brilliant!

I think there may be a number of reasons why we tend to become less creative over time. The main reason I think is that we create habits, patterns in our lives of doing things the same way. And I believe we need patterns to make sense of things, and to make life easier (so we don’t have to think about absolutely everything we do, but can actually do things subconsciously!)

But therein lies the challenge – to have habits and patterns AND to now and then challenge our thinking about things, not getting stuck.

Why not create a habit of saying to yourself each day, one or more of the following questions:

  • What can I do differently today?
  • What could I look at differently today (reframing)?
  • How can I look at that differently (reframing)?
  • What’s the craziest idea I can think of this context?

Our common sense often holds us back, even “brainstorming” is often just ” very gentle brainbreeze” (=more of the same).

The thought is free – not everything that gets suggested has to be done. We can play with thoughts and ideas. It’s often in some of the craziest ideas that something really original and revolutionary gets created.

As Albert Einstein so insightfully said: “If an idea isn’t at first absurd, there’s no hope for it”.

So, let’s continue to create and stretch our creativity. Let’s push ourselves to think differently. Let’s play with ideas. And let’s watch the world transform, one idea at a time.