Saturday, 18 December 2010

I'm working on some other stuff now...

Hello everyone - sorry for the lapse in communication!

The Eco Ironman project has gone quiet for a while, but will be back live at some point. For now, I'm working a bit too hard, so my eco-ness has gone a bit more theoretical. You can keep tabs on that at

I am however continuing to pursue the green sport thing, and you can keep up with me and my new buddies at

Go well.

Monday, 14 December 2009

I have a habit when I read of folding over corners that I think at some stage I might want to go back to. Obviously I very rarely do, but just on occasion...
Last night was one such moment. I decided to have a little look back over Born to Run, and came across this beautiful quote:
How do you flip the internal switch that changes us all back into the Natural Born Runners we once were? Not just in history, but in our own lifetimes. Remember? Back when you were a kid and you had to be yelled at to slow down? Every game you played, you played at top speed, sprinting like crazy as you kicked cans, freed all, and attacked jungle outposts in your neighbours’ backyards. Half the fun of doing anything was doing it at record pace, making it probably the last time in your life you’d ever be hassled for going too fast.

That was the real secret of the Tarahumara: they’d never forgotten what it felt like to love running. They remembered that running was mankind’s first fine art, our original act of inspired creation. Way before we were scratching pictures on caves or beating rhythms on hollow trees, we were perfecting the art of combining our breath and mind and muscles into fluid self-propulsion over wild terrain. And when our ancestors finally did make their first cave paintings, what were the first designs? A downward slash, lightning bolts through the bottom and middle – behold, the Running Man…

But the American approach – ugh. Rotten at its core. It was too artificial and grabby, Vigil believed, too much about getting stuff and getting it now: medals, Nike deals, a cute butt. It wasn’t art; it was business, a hard-nosed quid pro quo. No wonder so many people hated running; if you thought it was only a means to an end – an investment in becoming faster, skinnier, richer – then why stick with it if you weren’t getting quo for your quid?

This to me has resonations throughout the world at the moment. Everything must be measured and analysed, usually so its worth can be quantified in monetary terms. But what runners know(and I don't mean just elite runners - in fact, they're most likely to have forgotten), and know perhaps better than anyone else in the world, is that some things are valuable just for themselves. This knowledge is what makes two such seemingly different people as Scott Jurek and Arnulfo Quimares (two of the heroes of Born to Run, pictured above) fundamentally similar, in a way that belies the cultural context of their lives, and is rooted in a deeply spiritual attitude to the world. You can see it in their faces. Beautiful, isn't it?

Monday, 7 December 2009

One step at a time

In changing the world, as in endurance sport, it pays to take things one step at a time... and I think I was getting a bit ahead of the game with the British Council thinking.

Flow, as this fantastic book describes it, is something close to the essence of the true joy of sport, and a pre-condition is focusing completely on the task in hand. It is not all about winning - but equally, it is not about enjoying the view. It is about the perfect match of effort with challenge, the rubbing up of an individual against his or her individual limits. To reach this state, the action in question becomes the only thing there is... I recognise this deeply from my own experience, most recently from the swim in the Ironman, where the rhythm of my swimming became in some sense the whole of me. I was, for that period of time, a swimming creature, with no space or capacity to be otherwise. This is the purity of sport, this is its joy. The ability to be totally at one.

Of course, you don't have to be an eco athlete to achieve this. But I do wonder if it can make the sensation more authentic. It seems logical to me that there is an element of absorption in nature in this feeling - and it would therefore make sense that the fewer man-made barriers between you and nature, the purer that feeling, that joy can be.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Or maybe that's one project...

Wow. What a weekend. I've just been on the British Council International Climate Champion weekend workshop, refining my project plan for the coming year. And it's shifted things quite a bit. It all culminated in a short pitch, which is below.

Sport Uncut – creating a world where sport is an act of appreciation of nature, not a fight for money and fame

My project is to unleash the latent power of endurance athletes – marathon, ultramarathon and long distance triathletes – as a force for change.

This is a project with significant potential impact, for three reasons.
1) This audience is full of the kind of people who, if they do something, do it properly. You don’t complete a marathon without some commitment.
2) We have a deep visceral connection with the natural world – we know in our bodies if not always in our minds how much we depend on nature
3) We know (again implicitly rather than explicitly) that sport has gone wrong somewhere; we know that it’s not just about winning and losing

My project is to make this understanding, this deeply held knowledge, explicit. I see a world where endurance athletes are at the forefront of the ecological revolution that is just starting to emerge.

I am going to do this via 3 angles of approach

The first will be to define new types of endurance event, events where the competition is explicitly not just about the quickest time. We have a desperately narrow-minded conception of competition today – but the word originally comes from the Latin ‘cum + petere’, to strive together. I believe we can recapture this meaning, and my first idea is to work with an existing event, the Jurassic Coast Challenge ultramarathon next March, to find new ways – including a photography competition integrated into the ultra itself. The athletes will be striving together, not only to complete the course, but to fully appreciate the greatest moments of the race.

The second will be to celebrate and catalyse the production of new types of kit, more coherent with our attachment to the natural world than the desire to win at all costs. In the long term, I can imagine new forums, magazines, and so on being established – but for now I will start by establishing a stand at existing sports shows, bringing together such innovations as limestone-based wetsuits, bamboo and flax bikes, and ‘barefoot’ running shoes, under the banner of ‘the athlete of the future’.

Finally, I want to start to engage with the psychology of endurance sport, and sport as a whole, looking to understand where our narrow definition of competition has come from, and seek a new language for those of us who see an altogether broader reality. I hope to have the opportunity to do a PhD, and this would be the heart of my inquiry.

In the long term, imagine an alternative Olympics – an Olympics where we are striving together in appreciation of the natural world, not fighting over whether it’s the swimsuit or the swimmer, the athlete or the steroids, that are ‘winning’ the race.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Three projects for 2010

After a bit of a pause for thought, the plan is to continue with the blog... more for my sake than for anyone else's!

But just in case you do feel like keeping up to date, what you can expect over the next year is three main things.

First up, the attempts off the back of Barcelona to get the concept of eco triathlon into the mainstream. The first real victory has come this week, as Tzero-tri, a new website for triathletes by triathletes, commissioned a 'how to' guide from me on the subject. You can check it out here. I'm also hoping to work with Simon Griffiths, the founder of the site, on a couple of other ideas for working together with the goal of making all triathlon eco triathlon. I see no reason at all why tri shouldn't be the next surfing.

Second, I'm going to have a go at setting up a race. I won't take on a triathlon just yet (though you never know!), but what I want to try to do is get a 10k going to get more people involved in the idea that nature is a vital factor in the true joy of running. It'll basically be a cross country race somewhere near London to start with - but with a few twists. I've got myself on a British Council project with a bit of funding attached, and I've just registered the domain Watch this space (but not just yet, because there isn't anything there!).

Finally, I'm going to take on the Jurassic Coast Challenge in March, and use a barefoot running shoe to do it. I've been for quite a few barefoot runs now, and really enjoyed the feeling. So bring it on!

Monday, 26 October 2009

Peak oil and limestone wetsuits

A few people have been asking me what the scoop is on limestone wetsuits - understandably, as it's a slight difficult concept to get your head around.

Essentially, the deal is this. Most wetsuits are made of neoprene, a petroleum-based substance. So like a lot of stuff, it's made of oil.

Neoprene brings several problems with disposal, as it's a pretty hazardous substance, and very difficult to recycle. But the most significant environmental issue is the sourcing of the oil. Dwindling supplies mean we're getting close to (and many commentators say we've gone past) the point where new production of oil is outweighed by growth in demand. This is the point we call peak oil (thanks Wikipedia).

As this happens, we start to seek new oil with greater and greater desperation - a notable example being the efforts to exploit the Alberta tar sands in Canada. All oil is bad. But this stuff is mad. Because of emissions incurred in production, tar sands oil is responsible for 3 times as many emissions as normal oil. Not only that, but the tar sands are often in areas of ancient boreal forest. This sort of thing is just BAD news - on all counts. Greenpeace haven't even had to use their usual tactics; they've published the report above on the financial risks BP and Shell are putting their shareholders through instead!

What all that means is that anything we can do to move away from petroleum-based products is seriously good news. So ask for geoprene when you buy your wetsuit!

Friday, 23 October 2009

Making (small!) waves in triathlon world...

Feeling quite pleased with myself today, as it seems the concept of eco triathlon is starting to make a bit more of an impact where it can really make a difference - among triathletes.

An article is running on, and I'm talking to tzero-tri about the possibility of writing a 'how to' guide to eco triathlon for them. I'm really hoping this can be the beginning of something - I'd love to think that triathlon could be the next surfing, the next sport to really understand the relevance of the environment to the sport we love. It feels like it makes sense...

That said, I'm almost as excited about another little development. My deskmate at work has just entered her first 10k run, having never really been interested before. She started jogging in the park near her house after feeling 'shamed' by me!

From small acorns?