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Wednesday, September 22, 2010

100% Mag Autism Special

Last week saw the airing of our segment on 100% Mag on M6. It is a daily show that airs at 18.45 Monday to Friday and is hosted by Estelle Denis. It is based around the very popular One Show by the BBC and covers all sorts of topics, mostly lighthearted stuff but occasionally and more frequently the show seems to be tackling meatier subjects. Which is welcome relief considering the last time I watched it a guy was cracking wall nuts with his ass in an attempt to enter the Guinness World Record books.

So last May we filmed a segment that started at 7.30am and wrapped at 16.30 the evening in question. Magalie was directing and Fred was behind the camera. They were both utterly fantastic and are the type of people it would be easy to become friends with. We filmed and re-shot various bits for our piece which was a look had how Autistic kids adapt to a 'normal' schooling. The first segment concentrates on Matthieu who is already at school with an assistant and then on to Pearl who is at creche and preparing to go to school.

I could ramble on about it but the video below will do the talking for us, even if it is in French I think non speakers will grasp the underlying message. It's one of hope and spirit and always doing our best even when it can get tough. Alicia was our voice for the day and did an outstanding job in representing our views and aspirations. Thanks to Julie for her help and her wonderful work as Pearls Ortophoniste has helped inexplicably. Dylan of course is THEE man on the TV and cool as mustard. Finally thanks to all the people who saw the clip and got in touch, we were overwhelmed by the response from all over the country and unfortunately not everyone left their email address so I hope if they are reading this they will get in touch again. Its just heart warming to be touched by complete strangers and and we will continue along with our humble group in the hope that it helps those who may not know where to turn. We were there once, and sometimes still are. Only unity can break down the walls and bring us all together.


(Pearl is @4:20)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The minimalist approach.

I have been struck lately by how fatigued I feel, although I have also been encouraged by reading the blogs of other ultra runners Geoff Roes and Tony Krupicka who it appears are encountering a lull in form. Not that I would take joy in anyone else feeling less than their best but, these guys are the creme de la creme and reading their candid and insightful accounts of training and racing proves that by also feeling lethargic it is proof that it's a 'this-time-of-year-type-thing'.

I have chosen this video because it resonates within all of us (I hope), the need for a less cluttered and more organic way of living. A herd of goats on a mountain side would be the life for me but that is not possible, a balance needs to be maintained and running the trails is the best way I can exact that sort of communion. I hope my body can accept the hardship of 24hrs of racing in ten days time, my mind is in combative fettle. I believe that next week will see the swan song of my colds, aches and tiredness and a more prosperous physical shift will emerge.

In the mean time I just finished "Born to Run". A phenomenal book not just for runners but for adventurers at heart. Beautifully told by Christopher McDougall and I would read it again in a heartbeat. Pick up a copy if you can.

See you guys round the bend,


Thursday, September 9, 2010

Kilian Jornet.

For me Kilian is a modern day phenomenon! Articulate, insightful and destined to be one of the greatest runners in the history of the sport. He is an ambassador for Salomon and I think his ability and approach will redefine the joy of the simple act itself.

Enjoy, Mally.

Monday, September 6, 2010

'QBRC' 20km Trail de Viroflay

Yesterday saw the start of the inaugural trail race in our lovely village of Viroflay. For those who may be curious I would like to take the opportunity to explain exactly where I live and what its like.

Agrandir le plan

Viroflay is a suburb in western Paris. It is close enough to the capital for sightseeing with visiting friends and family, and far enough away to not feel like you live in a city. I can jump on train and be at the Eiffel Tower in twenty minutes and the opulent Versailles Castle is a stones throw at just under four kilometres away further west. The characteristics of this area and its people really make it home for me, I have lived in many places all over the world but I really feel settled here. The amenities for children are plentiful and the opportunities for an outdoor lifestyle can be seen wherever you go. But I love it because of the trails. The area is very much in a basin and a panoramic scan reveals 360 degrees of tree lines and deep forests. Within these forests is where I spend my time training. An infinite sprawl of meandering and undulating routes that serve as a meditation and retreat from our self obsessed world of disposable clutter. So when the local running club (of which I am not a member) decided to make use of these earth given gifts by hosting an 11km and 20km race, I was pretty excited.

QBRC means Quelques Bonnes Raisons de Courir! Come again you say? The translation literally means Some Good Reasons to Run. Now the name definitely leaves a lot to be desired but the course spoke volumes about the amount of planning that went into it. The route was one 11km loop and back through the start where the 11km race obviously finished and we of the 20km race continued on for more punishment. Below is a map of the route itself.

(11 km lap at the top, last 9-10km loop at the bottom)

(prisoner #109, my bib for the day)

The atmosphere was already in full swing when I went to pick up my race number at 8am with Dylan and Pearl, considering the start was still two hours away it boded well for what would be a truly great ambiance throughout the event. So after the usual banter and stretches the Mayor was calling us to order, thanks was given (and deserved) to the organising committee and the Police Municipal who would be marshaling the roads. Just before we took off a guy approached me and said "I see you are running for Autism" and wanted to know with which organisation. I told him that it was pretty much a one man band and with the help of some really great people on the Internet and the efforts of myself and my wife we marched to the beat of our own drum. He was really taken aback by this as in his mind it was a unique idea. He told me of the struggles his family have had with their own son who is Autistic and soon to be 14 years old. So Etiene, if you are reading this please send me your e-mail address so we can head out for a run sometime.

At 10am the Mayor counted us down and we took off pretty rapidly. The very start involved a descent on the main road and the quad crunching pace was already starting to burn a bit. Once the group left the village into the first trail section it became apparent that hills were going to be the order of the day. Within the first five km's the ascending was pretty much non stop, winding trails doubling back constantly had strung the four hundred plus participants into one big serpentine like delineation. Curses were muttered under breaths by a few guys beside me but all in jest I must say. From here on in it was every man and woman pitting their will against the rising tracks. I was content to stay at a conservative pace as it was a training run essentially and I am building my distances ahead of the 24 in three weeks time. Having said that I wasn't exactly slouching either. The first aid station at five km's was a welcome relief as by that time the temperature had hit 26 degrees, a quick cup of water and a few hundred metres of flat before winding upwards once more.

(the start, me, right, with white head band and compression socks)

Along this first part of the route I was talking to a reall
y nice guy, whose name I didn't catch, about all sorts of things - including Autism awareness. He was running the ten km race and and was pushing along strongly. It was pleasant to have somebody to converse with as I spend most of my time running alone, before I knew it he was running on ahead of me and we were entering the town for the start of the second loop. Passing through the gymnasium car park was uplifting as music was playing and lots of people had gathered. I made a bee line for the tray of sliced oranges on a nearby table and quickly devoured three pieces. My favourite part of the race was coming, my back yard was just ahead of me.

When I run it always takes me a good forty five to fifty minutes to really get into the groove. Today was no exception. Once I hit the second loop everything synced, my mind was on the job and my stride was on cruise control. This part of the course was as hilly but with more twists and turns as opposed to the steep assaults of the previous ten km. These factors probably helped in forming a few groups and I found myself with seven other runners. I think the camaraderie was rejuvenating for all and pushed us on that little bit extra. But we did make an error and as the day played out we were not the only ones. We came to a fork in the trail and it was just a split of forty metres but at the end of one fork was a yellow arrow pointing us left, we took the other fork and began rapidly descending. I knew this could not be right as from my knowledge of the area we should have continued climbing for many more hundreds of metres before levelling off. I was towards to the rear of the group and yelled at the guy ahead to stop. Here we were, eight of us looking perplexed and sweaty wondering which way to go. I decided to run back to the top and try and figure it out, the rest of the guys waited for no more than two minutes as I yelled at them to climb back towards me. We had indeed taken a wrong turn and missed the yellow arrow. Back on track and after a collective sigh we decided there was work to be done. This minor mistake had given us an impetus to raise our game.

At the 15km point I met my friend Jean who was manning the aid station and is a member of the club. I called him a masochist (for devising such a course) between gulps of water and bid him adieu. Our group was still intact but I decided that now was my time to stretch it out a bit. I knew that some of the guys had done all they could and were beginning to slow. I asked the strongest looking one if he felt like having a bit of a gallop and he was with me. As I went to the front I was looking around every so often to see if anyone was still with me, suddenly no one. I was thinking this can't be right, I surely could not have dropped all of them. I hadn't, up to my right and just inside my peripheral vision I could see the guys snaking upwards. They had taken another wrong turn. I shouted at them and when they realised their mistake suddenly did a u-turn and bounded back in my direction. Later at the finish line the sign posting on the course would become a bone of contention for many. Once back on route it was time for me to go solo. With three km to go I upped it to top gear and was really happy with having enough left in the tank to sustain the effort I was expending. As I left the beautiful forest I could hear the familiar sound of music in the distance and out of nowhere a voice shouting that I had four hundred metres left. Sprinting down the hill back into the stadium felt awesome with people clapping and other runners cheering, it was a truly wonderful reception.

Afterwards I cheered on those behind me and checked the board for the results. My time was 1:40:51, 55th place overall. I am happy with that as I could have definitely pushed harder but patience is more important at this stage, the race of my life is not far way. I spoke to the Mayor for a bit who asked about Pearl and how things are progressing for her. I told him to find us a killer apartment or else, he laughed and said he's doing all he can. I met some friends and made some new ones. Beers and soft drinks were being served as well as snacks and fruit. Everyone agreed that it was a tremendous day and with the sun shining brightly overhead I left the beer drinkers behind and headed home (400 metres away, yes) to my lovely family and a hot shower. Thanks to all the organisers, volunteers, Police Municipal and locals who made it the inspiring day that it was. Considering it was the first one I think the club did a spectacular job, it was a difficult course but then again the most rewarding ones always are.

See you round the bend.


Friday, September 3, 2010


September has arrived and the holidays are done and dusted for another year. This is probably my favourite month as things settle back into the routine of school and the weather is pleasantly mild, excellent for trail running. I do enjoy the break of getting down to the south of France for a few weeks and watching the kids launch themselves into the sea with reckless abandon, but the heat just gets to me after a while. The rest of the family are usually bronzed within days whilst I hide my lobster red flesh under my trusty parasol. Even running becomes hard, the area around our apartment was completely flat and during the day it was very difficult to pound the pavements without over heating. I always went early at around 4am but it was still not the same as being on the trails, don't get me wrong watching the sun rise over the sand dunes as the Mediterranean is bathe in light is wonderful. But after a while it becomes.... unremarkable I guess. (Luckily my daily games of tennis with Alicia kept me on my toes) On the trails its the challenge of the terrain, the split second decisions at a crossroads or the demands on both body and brain to be one step ahead every time.

Now that I am back and counting down the last four weeks before the 24hr race I will be getting down to some serious trail binging starting tonight. The local club is having its inaugural trail race this Sunday and they have picked a really challenging route which I am quite pleased about. Its nice to meet some runners from the town see what everyone has been up to. It also helps to further bolster the great running community here in Viroflay. But most of all its a chance to push myself and get a training race under my belt for the 24. I will be increasing my time on the road on the build up as well as throwing in some speed work sessions and reporting on all of the above. There have also be some developments in the area of sponsorship and will be pleased to announce all once the final few details have been put in place.

The website has also been given a bit of a revamp with some new colours and we will be adding some new photos soon too so keep an eye on it. I have received a lot of e-mails recently from people looking for advice and direction about starting running or going from 5k races to half marathons. This is so heartening as if one person has taken it up through these blogs/sites then it's been worthwhile in my eyes. Everyone has it in themselves so what have you got to lose.

See you round the bend.


Running for Pearl

This blog is dedicated to my daughter Pearl who was diagnosed with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) in August 2009. My goal is to raise funds and awareness by doing what I love....Running.