11 lessons from completing one of the world’s toughest races


The Yukon River Quest is a 440 mile nonstop kayak race in Northern Canada; it’s regarded as one of the hardest races on the planet. Nearly 30 per cent of boats were forced to scratch due to capsizing, injury, exhaustion and hypothermia. The race took over 78 hrs to complete with just 10 hrs of rest in that period.

The sense of achievement in finishing the race was enormous, but what was most rewarding were the lessons it reinforced for me that go far beyond kayaking:

  1. Never underestimate yourself. I am by no means a good at kayaking and was petrified by the challenge in front of me, but by working hard you can make up for the lack of skill.
  2. The tough times don’t last forever. It can feel like the elements are against you, we faced headwinds for hours that were extremely demoralizing, but if you put your head down and work through them they soon disappear.
  3. The power of teamwork. You fail and succeed together so it is essential to look after one another. Find people that complement, inspire and entertain you and the challenge will be easier.
  4. Take the lead. If something needs to be done, get on and do it, don’t wait for someone else to do it.
  5. The power of local knowledge is invaluable. If you know where the river runs fast you can double your speed. Developing a detailed understanding of your environment is essential to success.
  6. Don’t scratch. There are times when you feel like giving up. Work through them and you will come out stronger.
  7. Enjoy what you do and smile. Life is easier when you are having a good time, so look for the positives even when everything around you is testing your limits.
  8. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Identify the things that can go wrong and make contingencies for them. If you can plan for all scenarios then you will be in a better place if they come around.
  9. Set goals. By setting small goals that ladder up to an overall objective this helps to break down the challenge into manageable chunks and helps build momentum.
  10. The harder the challenge the greater the reward. Set the bar high and push yourself to achieve it, the feeling of accomplishment is worth the pain in reaching it.
  11. Stay organized. Try and make life easy on yourself by having everything within reach. For example I duck tapped Krave Jerky to my kayak, used a tiny NoMad KeyCharger that kept my phone juiced up along the trip, without the hassle of a bunch of wires. Thinking ahead to these kind of simple shortcuts kept my kayak organized and stress free!

11 lessons from completing one of the world’s toughest races


The Yukon River Quest is a 440 mile nonstop kayak race in Northern Canada; it’s regarded as one of the hardest races on the planet. Nearly 30 per cent of boats were forced to scratch due to capsizing, injury, exhaustion and hypothermia. The race took over 78 hrs to complete with just 10 hrs of rest in that period.

The sense of achievement in finishing the race was enormous, but what was most rewarding were the lessons it reinforced for me that go far beyond kayaking:

  1. Never underestimate yourself. I am by no means a good at kayaking and was petrified by the challenge in front of me, but by working hard you can make up for the lack of skill.
  2. The tough times don’t last forever. It can feel like the elements are against you, we faced headwinds for hours that were extremely demoralizing, but if you put your head down and work through them they soon disappear.
  3. The power of teamwork. You fail and succeed together so it is essential to look after one another. Find people that complement, inspire and entertain you and the challenge will be easier.
  4. Take the lead. If something needs to be done, get on and do it, don’t wait for someone else to do it.
  5. The power of local knowledge is invaluable. If you know where the river runs fast you can double your speed. Developing a detailed understanding of your environment is essential to success.
  6. Don’t scratch. There are times when you feel like giving up. Work through them and you will come out stronger.
  7. Enjoy what you do and smile. Life is easier when you are having a good time, so look for the positives even when everything around you is testing your limits.
  8. Plan for the worst and hope for the best. Identify the things that can go wrong and make contingencies for them. If you can plan for all scenarios then you will be in a better place if they come around.
  9. Set goals. By setting small goals that ladder up to an overall objective this helps to break down the challenge into manageable chunks and helps build momentum.
  10. The harder the challenge the greater the reward. Set the bar high and push yourself to achieve it, the feeling of accomplishment is worth the pain in reaching it.
  11. Stay organized. Try and make life easy on yourself by having everything within reach. For example I duck tapped Krave Jerky to my kayak, used a tiny NoMad KeyCharger that kept my phone juiced up along the trip, without the hassle of a bunch of wires. Thinking ahead to these kind of simple shortcuts kept my kayak organized and stress free!

I never made it to Congo.


“I never made it to Congo” it feels so hollow to say and foolish. Everything got shot down, before it could begin, and i don’t know what to do. What a complete waste.
It’s been a good while since I was supposed to go to the Congo. Sadly on the day we were supposed to fly, our visa to Congo was denied. Despite doing everything requested of us, the Congo Embassy refused to grant it in London, and literally ripped a page out of our passports. The whole experience was upsetting and frustrating and completely unfathomable. Just a waste effort, time and money. Someone suggested that i’d be better donating the money I spend on trips to the Congo, but they miss the point, i’ve only ever wanted to share my feelings about a region, I care about in the hope that others will feel that way too. I don’t want to dwell on it as it makes me incredibly angry. I say that I’ve been stewing about this for weeks, I’ve let everyone down.
What this meant was I couldn’t travel to the country and do the plans I’d prepared to trying and shed a light on life in the Congo. As I’d said previously, I wanted to go to the Congo to show how things have changed in the region, what life is like and to reconnect with the country having not been there for a number of years. I was aiming to use the trip to the Congo to springboard future activity and campaigns. None of this could happen.
I don’t know what the impact of going to Congo would have been and never will. Perhaps raised some money for WFW, a few blogs, maybe a bit of coverage in a paper. I don’t know. What frustrates me is that I wanted to really be able to show the positive sides of life in the Congo and try and get people to better understand a region that isn’t just about violence and conflict. The place and people are beautiful, it deserves better. The place has been defined by conflict but there is more to the region, much more. I wanted to bring some hope and positivity so people could see the potential.
Since standing in Goma in 2009 and feeling overwhelmed by everything I’d seen and heard I’ve done what I could do few more people aware of the Congo. It has a profound effect on me personally and shaped my life, values and priorities. I’ll never feel like I’ve done enough because I don’t think anyone could, but I’ve tried. I’m still eaten by guilt about the situation there.
What made it frustrating is that in July I’ll be moving to San Francisco, making future trips to the Congo much harder especially given recent troubles with the visa. However, with moving to a new country and city, I’ve got the opportunity to speak and try and engage a new group of people able the Congo. I’ve always been concerned I’d fatigued you all with my ramblings and I’m sure many of your are bored of me rattling on about running, conflict and the Congo. I wouldn’t have done this if I didn’t mean anything to me.
I really appreciate the overwhelming support you’ve granted me as I’ve ran for Congo. We’ve done a lot, but there is more to be done and i’m sorry i couldn’t make it back.
I don’t really know what else to write. This is just the end of the beginning.
Chris

Sorry your trolling has backfired!


When I was wondering about going back to the Congo in March, I got an email saying that someone had commented on my blog. I thought it was a touch strange as I hadn’t blogged in months. So I opened it up and the comment that was left was just bizarre and made me even more determined to go back to the Congo.

“I don’t get it: how running 12 marathons a year could help people in Congo ? By the way, I lived in Kinshasa and worked in the Bukavu region when based in Goma. Amnesty international must be the worst choice to help people in desperate regions of the world with their current life. And no, 12 marathons-triathlons is nowhere near a “world record” as you put it. I ran 17 a year. A group of people named the Marathons Maniacs run 52 a year. Some more than 100 a year…For what is worth…!”

At the time I was pretty upset by what this person had said, I couldn’t really understand why he was having a go at me for something that I thought was right to do. Having thought about it more and more, it was another tipping point for me to go back and to keep people aware of the Congo.

It isn’t about running 26 miles or 2600 miles, picking up medals and PBs. I run because that’s basically all I know and think I can do. The distance is arbitrary, but I’m just trying to do something to create a conversation starter to get them aware of the conflict in the Congo. Not enough people know about the situation in the Congo, what the women in that region have lived through and still do. I’m going there to try and shed a bit of light on the world that has been in the shade for too long.

An old friend sent me an email in 2010 which still perfectly captures what i’m trying to achieve:

“Just read your blog and wanted to tell you that I’ve pretty much told every person on my course and most of my good friends about your exploits over the last 6 months, never deliberately it just crops up in conversation. It always starts with a “holy jesus he’s crazy” or “fucking hell he’s mad” from them as they listen but always ends with them wanting to know what is fuelling you and i always make sure i tell them about the conflict in Congo & the lack of coverage. They are always interested and can’t believe what is going on in a small pocket of a forgotten bit of Africa.” 

I want people to know that the troubles in Congo exist and be aware. If they care about them then great, if not then that’s their choice, but I want to try and give as many people the option to care as possible. Last time it was through running this time its with a bit of cooking.

You might have read that I’m going to the Congo and think, oh he’s done that before, what’s new about that, what’s changed? This is far from straight forward. This isn’t a holiday. This is going to be tough, not physically, but mentally.

The hardest thing and the one thing I’m really worried about is that people will be fatigued, think they’ve heard it all before. It’s been three years since last visiting the Congo and things have changed and I want to show you how they have changed and why it is still paramount to take an interest in the Congo.

When I’m away for the next ten days, I’d really appreciate it if you can share updates with friends and family so that more people are made aware about what has been a forgotten conflict for too long.

 

Flying to the Congo on Friday


After a rather testing few days trying to secure a visa for the Congo, it looks like it is coming together. I won’t bore you with the details, but it has been harder and more testing than first thought.
With the visa now it train, I can start looking forward to the trip to the Congo on Friday. We’ve got a lot planned for the 10 days that we are there and can’t wait to tell you all about.
We’ll be traveling about 400km into the Congo from Bukavu and spending the night out in rural Congo cooking with the women. In preparation for cooking in the Congo, I’ll be making a hell of a lot of homemade pesto to take with me and then I have the small matter of taking a lot of pasta to the DRC with me.
Plans are underway for a fun run on Monday for the women that Women for Women work with in Bukavu. And Tuesday looks set to be the day when I attempt the marathon through the Congo again.  Given the security situation it looks like we’ll be running slightly later in the day, with a 10am which means it is going to be very hot.
There is a lot happening at the moment and i don’t have much time, but i’ll try and give you a bit better overview of our plans and i’d love to hear from you about the stuff you are interested in. Hopefully through next week, I’ll be able to give you some updates each day in the DRC and tweet, blog and video blog updates daily on where we’ve been and what we’ve been up to.
I’m pretty shocked at how quickly it has come by, in terms of flying on Friday. But I can’t wait to get back out to the Congo and to tell you more about life in the Congo, the challenges the women face in that region and why it is important to be aware that has all too often been forgotten.
Thanks,
Chris

WOW! £2240 raised through the treadmill marathon!


Justgiving

I’m absolutely knackered. You’ll have seen I completed the marathon in about 3.25.06. I’m sorry that I posed so many links showing my nostrils at various angles. This is only half the story.Treadmill marathon

Yesterday was a logistical nightmare! Picked up a van drove it round to the gym, got the treadmill next to the van, all going smoothly…..and then, tried to get it on to the van. It was too bloody tall. Jackson you idiot.

Anyhow having tried a variety of ways to get into the van it was happening. Fear not with four kiwi lads on hand we shifted it into the van, with the treadmill hanging out the back, we gaffer taped the doors “shut” and then made our merry way over to Westminster. It’s only about 1.5 miles to drive from Waterloo to Westminster, but it felt like an eternity, I don’t think we got out of 2nd gear. We parked up outside Banqueting House unloaded the treadmill and pitched it into the hall on this giant throne. The day was getting more and more bizarre.

I’d bought a tuxedo running shirt, which looked stupid, but was more stupid in the sense that it was so tight and hot that I was beading sweat after about 8 minutes. So I started jogging away, my target time was about 3hrs 30mins, so I started at 4.45 hoping to finish at 8.15. As you can imagine these big events take a lot of organising and timing is pretty crucial to make sure it’d run smoothly. I’d got my pacing wrong and had gone off to quick, then need a quick toilet stop, so after a while I was completely lost as to how far or long I’d be going for. Someone was keeping an eye on this, but when the event started to over run, I’d then lost all sense of when I need to run by.

I think it was after about 2hrs or so when my left leg felt tight and my toes went numb, this happens a lot from all the past running, but it just makes running very painful and quite uncomfortable. This was all happening while guests started to stream in and asking what the hell I was doing. To be honest it wasn’t so bad, I was running a marathon and they always hurt after a while. What was so cool was just seeing everyone’s face when they came in, just staring at the sweaty guy on a treadmill, not really knowing what the hell was happening.

It turns out things were over running at the event and i was running quicker too. Anyhow, so that basically meant I’d finished far too early, so then had to keep running for I think for about another 20 mins or more and covering a few more miles as well. hey ho, i’d completed the marathon on a treadmill in Banqueting House!

It was really quite overwhelming finishing the race. When you’re on a stage and everyone is looking back you. I didn’t really know what to say or where to look, just hoping that being a running jester had helped raise enough money for Women for Women.

It turns out the marathon helped raise £2240. In 2010 I’d set a target of £10,000 to raise and actually reaching it today is personally really important, even though it took a little longer than i’d hoped. I felt I’d let myself down not reaching my target, so it means a lot to reach it. I appreciate I’ve placed a lot of burdens on people in the past asking for their donations, time and attention. But I wouldn’t do that if I didn’t think it was important and cared about this. That’s why I’m going back to the Congo in June. I’ve had a glimpse of the darkness the women there face. But the they deserve better. They deserve your support. They deserve your attention.

And just as I promised in 2009 I’m going to try and do that.

Running marathon from 4.45 today


Hello.

As you may have gathered i’m running a marathon today at the Women for Women gala, in Banqueting House. I’ll start running from 4.45pm today and will do my best to stream it live via Twitter and Facebook. No marathon is every easy, i’m i think this will be tough tonight, so if you can send your support in any form possible that would  really be appreciated. If you do tune in you’ll see how a marathon slowly strips back the layers and basically see my body crumple up as the minutes tick by.

Remember if you can guess my finishing time then i’ll give you a free copy of a new book that is being released by Women for Women called: Share.

Thanks,

Chrs

Treadmill #marafun tomorrow night


Ok. Here it goes. You’ll have seen last week that I’m heading back to the Congo this summer.

Asics treadmill marathon (2010)

Now I know I said, this isn’t just about more running…well I lied a little as there will be a touch more running as I attempt to run a treadmill marathon at the Women for Women Gala on Thursday evening and stream it live over Twitter and Facebook. I’ll be running from about 4.30 on Thursday (15th May)

Women for Women invited me along and I kind of felt guilty just attending and wanted to do what I could to try and help them fundraise on the night. On the evening there will be a silent auction where lots of lovely stuff gets auctioned off. Now sadly I don’t own a villa in France or have access to a day spa to offer up for auction. However, what I do have is that mundane ability to run.

So I thought what better way to try and raise a bit more of money for Women for Women by running a sweepstake on my finishing time for running a marathon on the night to try and raise some more money. I’m aiming to raise over £1000 on the evening for Women for Women.

Tomorrow I’m also hoping that I’ll be able to stream the whole run live via my iPhone and I’ll be running a live Twitter Q&A while running.

So if you’ve ever wondered what it is like to run a marathon then please tweet questions at me using the hashtag #maratweet or via Facebook. As you might imagine running on a treadmill could get a bit tedious so if you can tweet at me questions, comments or anything else then please do and please do share it with you friends via Facebook and Twitter please.

I’ve never tried anything like this before and I have no idea what it’ll be like streaming it, but I thought it’d be fun.

I also appreciate that most of you reading this probably won’t be at the gala on Thursday. However, I wanted to run a similar competition, so if you can donate just £2 on www.justgiving.com/runforcongo then I’ll give the person who gets the closest time a copy of the new cook book that Women for Women are launching tomorrow called Share.

Thanking you.

Chris

Going back to Congo in June 2013


On the 7th June I’ll be heading back to Eastern Congo to run, cook and learn.Making soap

After a visit to the Congo in 2009 I left with the desire to make more people aware of the situation in Eastern DRC. This prompted to run a marathon a month through 2010 and in 2011 take part in the world’s longest kayak race. The strongest memory I have from this campaign was my visit to the Congo in August 2010 when myself and four friends went to the Congo to share the stories of the women and men in the DRC to people in the UK to understand how their lives having been affected by the ongoing instability in the region.

That was over three years ago and the situation in the Congo has not improved, despite significant developments, such as the much-publicized G8 announcement on sexual violence fronted by William Hague and Angelina Jolie.

For me personally it has taken a while to realise that it doesn’t matter how far or fast you run, you need to be creative to get people to take an interest and when you get their attention you need to be able to show them why it matters by letting the people who live there, tell them what they are going through. That’s why in June of this year I’m going back to Congo, but the main thing in my backpack will be a cookbook rather than my trainers.

You may have seen already but Women for Women the charity that I have supported through my campaigning efforts are have released a new book which has recipes from the women they work with in different conflict zones, like the Congo. Other contributors to the book include more well-known personalities like Meryl Streep, Paul McCartney and Nelson Mandela. I was fortunate enough to be asked to contribute a recipe too (I supplied a rather basic pasta recipe).

I bloody love cooking and this all got me thinking. So I’ve decided to back to the Congo in June to understand a little bit more about what food and cooking actually means when you are surrounded by conflict and insecurity. All these questions started buzzing in my mind and I wanted to go out there and try and find answers to them.

In the simplest sense food can make you stronger and give you energy, but in a region ravaged by civil war can it mean more than that, bringing joy and satisfaction when everything around you is so unstable? I don’t know the answers to any of these questions, but I want to know and hopefully be asking these questions and cooking alongside these women.

My main aim in going back to the Congo is to see what has changed since last there in 2010 and to continue my campaign to get people to keep their interest in the Congo. While I’ll be taking my trainers and running another marathon there. My main aim will be to try and get people to relate to those in the Congo, to appreciate what they are going through by focusing on something that is common to us all – eating.

Why am I going back to Congo now?


IMG_5378It’s been a fair time since I wrote a blog. I’m still running, but you probably haven’t heard me harp on too much about the Congo as much as I’d use to. I’m sorry about this and I thought I’d share a few reasons why this was the case:

  1.  I had begun to feel that the campaign had fatigued by 2011. I’d done my best to get people to be aware of the Congo, but after that I felt I was endanger of turning people off the topic by repeatedly banging a drum.
  2. I think the challenge of running a marathon, ultra-marathon or kayaking was no longer really cutting through, I’d proved myself to some degree and after a while people seemed to accept that it was pretty normal and straight forward for me to do. The challenge had vanished.
  3. The last time I visited Congo was in August 2010 and time passed I lost my understanding of the region as I didn’t have that tangible connection that I’d had in 2009 and 2010. Over time my knowledge was fuelled only by press coverage.
  4. I was knackered. Running, training, thinking, planning and everything else that comes with trying to get people to focus on the Congo left me shattered. I needed a break. The one thing I learnt is to get cut through you need energy.

I’m sure there are other things, but hopefully the ones listed above give you an idea why things have been quiet for a while. The one thing that hasn’t altered is that the situation in Eastern Congo hasn’t improved considerably if at all since 2010.

This summer I’m going to be going back to the Congo with new ideas and energy to provide a new insight into life in the Congo and help you understand a little bit more about the Congo and ensure that people don’t forget in an area that still requires you support and attention.