If, just when you thought you were winning, you happen to get knocked over by a seven-foot-tall, pink-striped cat, it’s handy to have someone around who can help you get back up and into the race again
Not a lot of you will know this (and many of you may not believe it), but I used to be a pretty good runner when I was young. When I was just a slip of a lad, slim, trim and fit as a butcher’s dog (I told you it was hard to believe), I set the fastest time at my school as a 12-year-old for running the 1500m; I did it in just 5 minutes and 29 seconds. As far as I am aware, that record still stands today. Of course, it may help that they don’t do timed 1500m runs at my old school anymore. But even so, Mike is still the champ!
As a teenager, I represented my local running club, Wolverhampton and Bilston Athletics Club, at cross country races. I would usually finish in around 50th position in races of about 200 kids from all over the region. I was so skinny then that I had to tie a knot in the straps of my vest to make it fit, just as I did with my paper bag so it wouldn’t drag on the floor when doing my paper round. You may think I am kidding? Not a bit of it. It’s all true.
Later on, in my 40s, I also took part in the Great North Run, which was a real experience – but more of that later.
How times have changed since my cross country days. Today, I am 5′ 11½” and weigh around 16 stone. I have started running again and I have to tell you, it hurts! I have picked up a couple of injuries too, but I’m not beaten yet. Slowly and carefully, I’m getting back into it. I am just out of practice (and condition), that’s all. I just need to make sure I take it steady, build up my strength, try to reduce my weight a bit, and keep getting out there.
When you are running, it’s a great time to think – and I certainly have plenty of time when I run these days. On some of my recent plods around the locality, I have been thinking about the parallels between running and the IT business.
As we all know, you have to be quick on your feet in the technology market – and you have to keep going even when it gets tough. You have to have a plan for every contest and stick to it if you can, but also be ready to adapt to the conditions and how it goes. Even more importantly, you have to have an overall strategy and a training plan that will enable you to attain your ultimate goals.
You also have to be ready to make changes to those plans when new challenges come along. You never know what’s going to appear and trip you up. But if you have prepared well and trained properly, if you have access to expert coaching and the advice of others who might have had similar experiences, you should be able to deal with whatever comes along – however strange and unexpected it may be.
My own experience at the Great North Run, is a good example. This famous race takes place in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and it’s a half-marathon (13.1 miles). In 2013, I was persuaded to do it for charity. I had not run in years and I did not have much time to get ready. Even so, I was determined to complete the race and set myself a simple goal – that I would not stop the whole way around.
It was tough, and I did make it – almost. As we got closer to the finish, I realised I was going to be OK and started to feel rather pleased with myself. I was looking forward to enjoying the contrast of that warm glow of smugness I knew I’d feel, and the cold beer or two that a mate of mine had at the ready when I crossed the line.
Then fate intervened in a totally unexpected way. We were moving towards the finish line – where a lot of runners were forced close together – and as we all jostled for space, a runner dressed from head-to-toe as Bagpuss (that’s right, Bagpuss – the magical cat that lives in the shop window on the old Oliver Postgate kids programme), tripped and fell right in front of me.
Typical! For the next few minutes, it was chaos. Runners were trying to get by, stewards were attempting to lift the “old fat furry cat puss” off me, while the scores of Geordie spectators were doubled-up laughing at the sight of me flailing around under an enormous pink-striped moggie.
When I was finally released, I gamely got up and plodded on towards the finish, unaware that Bagpuss was after me. And he caught me too! Right on the line, he barged past and then started dancing a jig and celebrating like he’d snatched Olympic Gold from me at the last gasp! To be fair, it was an achievement; I was so hot and sweaty I could not even use my mobile phone; goodness only knows how hot he must have been inside that outfit?
As I am sure you can imagine, after all that, rather than smug, I just felt stunned. But I soon started to feel better when my mate turned up with the beers and we had a good laugh about it afterwards. I was grateful to have someone there to give me a bit of perspective on it all. I still made it around and there was nothing I could have done – even the most detailed race plan won’t consider the potential of being flattened by a seven-foot children’s TV character as you enter the finishing straight.
Similarly, no one could have realistically predicted that we’d have a global pandemic this year and that it would affect every aspect of our business and personal lives. Unexpected things happen all the time in life and in our industry. When they do, being part of SYNAXON UK is a tremendous help and comfort to our members.
Just as runners learn from each other by comparing their individual long-term plans and ambitions for different distances and races, SYNAXON members benefit by being able to discuss market trends and technologies, and share knowledge and experiences. That way, you can develop a really good strategy and plan for the future. You can sanity-check it with people who are in the same game and have similar goals. And if something unexpected comes along to put you off your stride – even a seven-foot-high cat – you know there will be someone there to help you get up and back into the race.