my running adventures – barefoot or otherwise
This is a post I’ve been meaning to write for a little while now. My blog has only been up and running for a couple of months, but already I’ve been amazed by the reaction I’ve had from friends in the ‘real world’ and other bloggers, who have been so supportive and encouraging in their comments and responses to what I’ve written.
So, firstly, in talking about the power of a blog, I want to identify the point that I see blogs as being powerful for their ability to bring like-minded people together, as well as provoke debate and discussion on a range of issues. Blogs are a rich source of learning, information and opinion and I’ve loved reading other people’s blogs who also blog about various things to do with running – from diet to running routes, race reviews to elite athletes news, running accessories and the personal preferences people have for how, where, when, why and what kind of running they get up to. I get to feed my appetite for running-related chat without needing to spout (or inflict!) my views on friends and family that may not really have any interest or desire to hear about my latest run or average per mile pace!
The second point I wanted to make about the power of a blog is two-fold: that it provides the author with an outlet and an audience. As far as an outlet goes, blogging has enabled me to express my thoughts, ideas and emotions across a range of issues – from a change of sporting app to thinking about joining a running club, from lack of TV coverage for certain events to giving me a way of expressing my support and sympathy for the tragic events of the Boston Marathon. If I didn’t blog about these things, I’d just have them whirling around in my head before they get replaced by other ‘stuff’ – which seemed to me a wasted opportunity to give expression to my thoughts. Of course, I’m not saying that my thoughts are particularly worthwhile hearing or reading by anyone else, it is enough for me that I can write them out of my head, clearing my mind for other stuff to take up room inside my tiny mind! This brings me on to audience. There is no way without a blog, that I’d be able to reach people all across this great world of ours. I’ve had views from South Africa, USA, Thailand, Phillippines, Trinidad and Tobago, Netherlands, Germany and Spain among many other countries registered on my blog, and I find it awesome that this can happen! While I don’t necessarily blog for any specific audience, I love that people want to see what I have to say and are willing to spend some of their valuable time reading the stuff that I write.
Having re-read some of my previous blog posts recently to tidy up the odd (rare!) spelling or grammatical mistakes that pop up, I’ve been struck by just how my blog really does reflect who I am – the words I use, the goals I have to set for myself, the determination and stubbornness I know are character traits of mine…and I’m sure there are some nice ones hidden in there too! Blogging gives me the opportunity to do something I love – writing – and running gives me the material I need to be able to write. This has always been an issue for me in the past. I’ve never known or been able to decide on what to write, having always had a long-standing desire to write a book, but no ‘big idea’ for it. Now I realise I don’t need to write a book. I can be more flexible than that, and can recount various stories over time on a blog instead, capturing real-life rather than recent history or creations of my mind.
Blogging has also helped me see the truth in the strength of positive feedback. I enjoy blogging because those who respond with comments on my blog or ‘like’ blog articles I write fuel my motivation to write a post again. People in the blogging world are so positive, encourage each other, and seem to me a really supportive community. Of course, I understand that it someone writes a comment disagreeing with your article, you have the power not to approve that comment, and that as an author of a blog, you hold a great amount of censorship authority. However, I’m pleased to say that apart from various spam comments, I have yet to receive a ‘nasty’ comment (and am happy for that to remain the status quo, before you get any ideas!).
Finally, I have a story that I wanted to share with you about the power of a blog.
Some of you regular readers (yes, I know there aren’t many of you, but you can feel a great sense of uniqueness in this status!), will know that I fairly recently wrote a long article reviewing the smartphone apps of Strava and endomondo. I don’t tend to do short articles…my vocabulary diarrhorrea won’t allow it!.
One of my friends, Tom, who I managed to get to read my review, is a massive Strava fan and actually introduced me to the app in the first place. After reading it, he suggested that I should send my review to Strava. Now, I don’t yet know if he said this as a tongue in cheek thing, or whether he seriously thought it was worthy of others reading it. I expect it was the latter, as he’s a good guy and sincere. Anyway, I searched the Strava website and found a generic e-mail address to send a link to my article to and sent the e-mail, not expecting anything to happen, but pleased I’d taken the action anyway.
Two days later, I checked the stats section on my blog…it was through the roof! (well relatively speaking anyway. Let’s just say it was by far and away a new daily views and visitors record!).
A day or so afterwards, I got a really nice, positive reply from one of Strava’s employees saying that they loved my blog post and that they’d like to send me some ‘goodies’ as a thank you. How cool! They asked for my shirt size too, so I was very excited about the post for the next couple of weeks! A card was shoved through the letterbox though, saying that there was a package for me, but they couldn’t deliver it as there was a fee involved…it was about £12. What!!
I wasn’t expecting anything else, so I kind of knew this would be my box of goodies. I weighed up whether it was worth my while actually paying for the box, and figured that the nice people at Strava would probably refund the cost, as they wouldn’t want me to have to fork out my own money for what was actually a thank you gift. My wife said I shouldn’t get it and should tell Strava about the fee first.
I didn’t listen to her. I’m sorry to say that my boyish excitement led me to defy my wife (I really don’t do it very often) and I went to the post office building, and asked the guy on reception what the deal was with the fee. It turns out that anything sent from outside the EU incurs a charge if the value of the package exceeds £15. What a ridiculous way for the government to increase its revenues (in my view)…especially when it is a package from a country we apparently have a ‘special relationship’ with. But don’t get me started, or I’ll rant…and ranting isn’t nice.
Reluctantly I paid the stupid fee, and got to open my box. Inside, I had a veritable feast of Strava branded goodies – a white Strava/saucony technical t-shirt (very thin and a bit see through though), some bright orange Strava shoelaces, a Strava waterbottle and something called a jersey bin. I currently have no idea what a jersey bin is, but it seems to me to be a see through small plastic wallet, perhaps to put keys in or something? If you know what a jersey bin is used for, please let me know. I haven’t got round to googling it yet!
I was chuffed! I’ve worn the t-shirt on every run I’ve been on since and feel that even though I have yet to hear from Strava about potentially refunding my outlay on the freebies from the Post Office, I’ve got good value from paying the fee.
I thanked Strava for the goodies, and got another reply back asking me if I’d consider being something called a Strava Ambassador. It turns out that usually people have to apply to be an ambassador, which is a voluntary role, and really should just be an extension of being an active member of the running/riding community, posting lots of your activities to your blog (hence the link to my runs and rides on this blog), using Strava as you already do, telling friends and family about Strava and being a considerate road and path user when you’re out running or cycling. Part of the commitment on my part as well is to be available at any events Strava put on locally (none I know of yet), wear my Strava running kit often (which I have yet to receive…and hope I don’t have to pay for that at the Post Office too!), and give feedback on changes being developed and made on the Strava site (exciting!).
In return, Strava provide some benefits to Strava ambassadors, including complimentary Strava premium subscription for a year (which has just been implemented on my account, very exciting!), free stash (as above, I have yet to receive this, but am excited about new, cool running gear to wear, and some that I can give away to other athletes in the local community), the opportunity to be a guest author on the Strava blog (which would be very cool) and you even get a special little Ambassador badge on my profile on the Strava website.
Now, it goes without saying that this would never have happened if I didn’t have a blog and didn’t write my thoughts about things. It also would never have happened if my good friend, Tom, hadn’t suggested that I send my article to Strava (I owe him one!).
I’m enjoying my role as a voluntary Strava ambassador and hope to have lots of exciting things to blog about here during my tenure. I feel responsible for acting sensibly out on the roads and paths, and this role gives me more accountability for acting like I hope I would when I inevitably am not let out in front of a car at a junction, or aren’t seen by some walkers blocking my way!
If you haven’t yet explored Strava and seen how much fun it is, I’d urge you to download the free app, register on the website, and take your Garmin/smartphone out on a run or ride using Strava. See how you stack up on segments around the world and go for new PRs…you never know, you could become the Course Record holder for a run or King or Queen of the Mountain for a cycling segment! (And the best bit is you can create your own segments too!)
Here are my run and ride links for my commute to and from work yesterday (notice that on my ride I did a loop of the University campus which is a specific segment…I really worked hard to get a top 3 time!)
The ride in to work in the morning: http://app.strava.com/activities/49372285 (mostly wind assisted)
The run(s) home in the evening: http://app.strava.com/activities/49425474 and http://app.strava.com/activities/49427091 (barefooting for just over a mile for the last leg of my journey home) – both runs were mostly into the wind…and it was a strong one!
I wanted to explain the reasons for my links to my runs and rides and hopefully now you’ll see that it is one of the things I’ve been asked to do as a Strava ambassador. I also wanted to disclose that I am a Strava ambassador and hence that’s part of why I talk about Strava sometimes on my blog. I don’t get paid for it though, and if there’s something I don’t like about Strava, I’d blog about that too (after I’d told Strava what I don’t like so they can try to rectify it – I don’t personally think moaning about something is a good idea if you haven’t tried to resolve an issue first!). I hope that this won’t get in the way of my blogging freedom, and instead help you as my audience to understand more about my running and riding habits, goals, performances and help me be accountable to you for getting out there in the great outdoors!
I can’t wait to get out this weekend for a longer bike ride with Tom – just hope I can keep up!
Enjoy your weekend, and have a good run/ride!