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!