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My First Half Marathon

Against all the odds at Angkor Wat – My first half-marathon

“Our greatest glory is not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.”
Confucius – More than 2000 years ago.

Today marked a major milestone in my journey towards running a full-marathon. I just

Nick before the start of the 21km race

completed my first ever half-marathon in a time of two hours, six minutes and 46 seconds at

Angkor Wat in Cambodia. This was massive achievement for me because six years ago I was told I would never be able to run again.

In 2007 my life was turned upside down. While playing squash one morning in London my

Nick overweight with his leg in cast in London in 2007

Achilles tendon snapped. While recovering, I went on a business trip where my tendon ruptured a second time. I had to undergo complicated surgery on my leg after which the doctors told me the earth shattering news. For the full story, see my recent blog post: ‘Learning to run again – 10 km closer to my marathon dream!

The years following the operation saw me pile on the pounds, and by 2010 I weighed 104kg. I began to use the fact my leg had been in plaster for two years as an excuse for my weight gain. I told myself that it was impossible to keep fit on crutches. I rarely managed to do any exercise, I had an unhealthy diet and I was spending too much time in the pub. Although I was desperate to get fit and to run again, I was making excuses. I kept telling myself I would start tomorrow, but tomorrow never arrived.

It was in December 2011 that I decided enough was enough. I attended a seminar in Ho Chi Minh City given by life coach Brian Tracy. He told me I needed to identify my life goals and to write these goals down. For me, health and fitness are a key part of life and I set myself a number of targets including quitting snuff (tobacco) – which I did in June this year – and getting my weight down to 80kg by Christmas. I hit the gym where I took up fitness walking. It was during these sessions I found I was actually able to run again for short periods.

In August this year I felt I was ready to take a serious step towards my ultimate dream and signed up for the Angkor Wat Half-Marathon. Today is 2 December and I have just completed the race! I had 14 weeks to prepare and identified five important steps I would have to take.

First I needed information. I wanted to know everything there was to know about fitness running. This was a new subject for me and I began to read books, websites and blogs. I also contacted personal trainers, attended running clinics and spoke to people who had run marathons. In his best-selling book ‘Good to Great’, Jim Collins tells us it is vital to identify what it is that holds us back and to knock these obstacles down. This was something I was going to need to work on.

I then wrote a detailed plan setting out precisely what I needed to do in order to accomplish my goal.

I needed to get organised. I had a limited number of weeks in which to prepare so I broke the time down into manageable chunks. I scheduled health checks and sought advice on how to improve my fitness. I started to run more often and work on building up my strength and stamina. I taught myself to properly stretch and warm up, worked on my posture, and made improvements to my diet.

I realised time management was going to be difficult as I am extremely busy in my role as General Director of Sophie Paris, a large fashion company in Vietnam. I also have a family and it was obviously important to set enough time aside for my wife and son, Percy.

My usual after work beer with colleagues was replaced by a session at the gym and I cut down the amount of time spent on the golf course. I love golf and it is an important part of my social life, but despite pressure from my golf buddies I only allowed myself one game each month.

I then took immediate action.

“A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Lao-tzu, The Way of Lao-tzu – Chinese philosopher (604 BC – 531 BC)

Many people say they intend to lose weight one day, travel in another country or promise to give up smoking and join a gym. However, most fail to put those plans into action because making new commitments is hard. I took action by registering for the Angkor Wat Half-Marathon, buying a flight to Cambodia and booking a hotel. I also told my friends I was running so there would be no way to back out.

The final part of my plan was to make sure I stuck to it. This sounds obvious, but a necessary quality for achieving success in life is self-discipline. I discovered I could achieve this even if it did mean not being able to have a beer or a slice of cake at a friend’s birthday party, however tempting. As for training, I developed an all weather attitude and stuck to my schedule no matter what the conditions. During a trip to Thailand I completed a 12km run in a heavy storm. I was the only person on the rain-lashed beach and I was soaked to the skin. I loved it! I knew that the harder I tried, the better the rewards would be. No matter how difficult it got, I refused to give up. As Winston Churchill said: ‘If you are going through hell, keep going.’

Even though I am extremely proud of my achievements over the past year, I realise I will not reach my target weight of 80kg by the end of December. I have now set a more realistic target of Christmas 2013. Brian Tracy taught me there are no failed goals as long as you continue to work towards them with an adjusted deadline. But my most important goal of the year – running a half-marathon – was realised today.

Running the last km of the race

The race was 21km through the Cambodian jungle in conditions that made it feel like I was running in a steam room. For those who do not know Angkor Wat it is the largest Hindu temple complex on the planet. It was built around the beginning of the 12th century and is one of my favourite places in the world. I feel extremely privileged to have run my first ever half-marathon here.

My target for today had originally been to run the race in less than three hours. However, I decided to reduce this to two-and-a-half hours, a time I actually beat by nearly 25 minutes. I have the feeling I could have pushed myself a little harder and achieved a better time, but today was about completing the distance safely. Next time I will be faster.

I aim to complete a full marathon before my 40th birthday. This means I have two-and-a-half years to prepare. I will use the time to improve my self-discipline, train harder and work on a healthier lifestyle. At the moment I am exhausted and sore, but remain fully committed to my marathon dream. I have just put my name down for the SihanoukVille half-marathon in Cambodia on 10 March next year. My target is to break the two hour barrier. I know that this means shaving just seven minutes off today’s time, but I also realise this may be harder than it sounds!

I learned an important lesson today. Completing the distance was not simply about my physical fitness, but also my state of mind. It is possible for us to achieve almost anything in life when we put our minds to it. Although my journey has only just begun, I am thoroughly enjoying every step of it.

I have to admit that after crossing the finishing line today my body was screaming never again. I then reminded myself that the pain of finishing a race would be nothing compared to how I would feel about myself if I gave up. Rewards are far greater when they come after a struggle and the reward for my struggle is being able to run again. After all: “The thirst you feel in your throat and lungs will be gone minutes after the race is over. The pain in your legs within days, but the glory of your finish will last forever.”


After the finishing line

Learning to run again – 10 km closer to my marathon dream!

Nick running the 10KM race in Vung Tau on 17 Nov 2012

Today was a momentous day for me. I have just completed my first competitive 10km race in Vung Tau, Vietnam. For me the race was more than completing the distance in less than an hour in 32 degree tropical heat – it marks the end of more than five years of rehabilitation and is a stepping stone to my ultimate goal of running a full marathon (42km) in under five hours. This may seem an easy target for many. Not for me.

While playing squash in London one morning in 2007, my life suddenly changed. The cracking sound of a shotgun being fired, extreme pain and the feeling my leg had gone through the floor of the court meant my Achilles tendon had snapped. I was rushed to hospital in agony and told I would have to wait a week for non-surgical treatment. My foot was put in a plaster cast, something I would have to wear for eight weeks, and over the next few months, with the aid of crutches and some expensive rehab, I gradually learned to walk again.

Back on my feet I took a trip to Katmandu, Nepal, in April 2007 to attend a regional MD meeting for my former employer, Oriflame. Again disaster struck. While doing my rehab exercises one morning in my hotel room I felt a shooting pain in my leg and fell to the floor. I knew immediately that I had again snapped my Achilles tendon. I clearly remember lying on the floor and calling reception for a wheelchair. I would need it to get around before flying to the UK the next day.

Back in London I was examined by a doctor who told me my Achilles tendon had completely ruptured and that I would need major surgery. After a week of agonizing pain I was in theatre where the doctor told me my knee would be put in plaster after the operation. When I woke up I was surprised to find that not just my knee, but my whole leg from my toes to my thigh was in a cast. When I was able to talk to a doctor he told me the severity of the rupture had made the surgery complicated. The surgeon had cut my leg open from my heel to the back of my knee. I was told my Achilles tendon was now shorter than before and I would have to undergo a lengthy period of rehabilitation. I was also told it was unlikely that I would be able to walk on my own again for at least a year. What made me more frustrated, upset and angry than anything was being told that I would never again be able to run. This left me lying in my hospital bed in a state of shock because keeping fit has always been such an important part of my life.

Three days later I was allowed to return to my London apartment to rest and recuperate. Soon after this I moved to Vietnam.

The first few months in my new home were challenging. Getting around on crutches with my whole leg in plaster in 35 degree heat was not easy. As Area Sales Manager for Oriflame it was necessary for me to spend much of my time travelling around Vietnam. Thankfully I loved what I was doing. What was suffering, however, was my health. Not being able to exercise meant I was putting on weight and my blood pressure, sugar level and cholesterol were also too high.

It was not until 2011, four years after my operation, I was finally able to walk for long distances again. I signed up to a gym and began to introduce fitness walking into my rehab regime. I gradually began to lose weight and felt my fitness returning. I had never given up on the dream of being able to run again, but was aware I still had a long way to go. I increased the amount of Achilles rehab I was receiving and started to visit the gym more often where much of my time was spent walking on the treadmill.

It was during one of my sessions on the treadmill in January 2012 I felt the temptation to run. However, my mind was telling me not to push it. After all, the last time I had tried to overdo things I had ended up in agonizing pain on a surgeon’s table. Yet my determination got the better of common sense. I gradually increased the speed on the treadmill and slowly started to run. I was elated, but I knew I had to control myself and stopped after 30 seconds. But I had been running. The feeling was amazing! The next day I came back and managed to run for a full minute. The following day I ran for two minutes. My Achilles felt fine, and I made up my mind, there and then, to prove the doctors wrong and, one day, complete a marathon. Since that day I have been training hard and running further with this goal in mind.

On 12 August 2012 I successfully completed my first 5km run in 39 minutes. I have continued to push myself, and today I am extremely proud to say that I have just completed my first competitive 10km race. I managed it in 57 minutes and 16 seconds. This may not be a world record, but for someone who was told he was never going to run again it is a major personal achievement.

The race was no picnic. Running in tropical heat under a clear sky in Vietnam is like running in a sauna. The race was made more difficult because it was a beach run; so much of it was on soft sand. We also had to run up and down hills. Although I had trained hard, I was concerned that my Achilles tendon could snap again. All fear left me when the race started.

The heat made running more difficult than I had anticipated and after 4km I was worried I would have to give up. I pushed through by telling myself the pain was only temporary and by reminding myself how lucky I was to be running again.

Nick rehydrating and recovering after having completed the 10km race

I am proud to say I finished the race in under an hour. I have managed to drop 16kg since I began to exercise again and currently weigh 88kg. My aim is to hit 80kg and to run a full marathon in under five hours. The next step of my journey is on December 2 when I will run a half-marathon (21km) through the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia. My goal is to complete that race in less than 2 hours 30 minutes. Watch this space for the next installment of my marathon journey.

End Remarks:
Finally I would like to pass my regards and thanks to Nicole and Long, my personal trainers at Nutrifort Fitness as well Greg Beale for his therapy and running advice. Without them I would not have reached this far towards my marathon goal.

I would also like to pass on my sincere regards to my family and friends and especially my dear wife Sofi and wonderful son Percy as well as my mate Bob Van Mol for their ongoing support, understanding and motivation. A final thank you remark to Matt Underwood for being my running buddy and for being the one to encourage me to sign up for the Half Marathon in Angkor Wat.

The Importance Of Goals

During October 2012, I had the pleasure of giving 3 trainings on goal settings to the top leaders of Sophie Paris Vietnam.

I started the training by making a bold statement, “during this training I will show you how you can get everything you want, faster than you ever thought was possible. If I was given only five minutes to speak to you today, and I could convey only one thought that help you to become more successful, I would tell you this: “Write down your goals, make a plan to achieve them, and work on your plans every single day.”

I then continued to take the participants through a hands-on workshop where they were told about the importance of writing down and defining their goals and how to achieve their goals and how to overcome obstacles in life.

Write Down Your Goals:
“Start by writing down exactly you what you want”, I told them. Why? “Because you need to find your purpose in life” I continued. Once you know exactly what you want it is possible to achieve it. Success comes by choice – not by chance, I added.

A Dream Is Not A Goal:
I asked the participants what their goals was, they all said things such as “to make more money”, “to have fun” and “to have a house or a car”. I then told them that were just dreams, and most likely they would not fulfill them since they are not specific enough nor did they come with a deadline. Instead, I told them to further define what exactly they want and then give it a deadline. As Brian Tracy said “Goals in writing are dreams with deadlines”, I added.

Why People Don’t Set Goals:
I explained that the most people in the world do not set goals because they think that goals are not important. They also do not know how to set and write their goals as well as that they are scared that they will not achieve them. Join The 3% That Has Set Goals: I then demonstrated how to set goals and join the 3% in the world that has done that. I told them to write their goals in presence tense and with a specific deadline as well as to start each goal with “I”. I gave them one example “I earn as a Distributor VND 50,000,000 from Sophie Paris each month by July 1, 2013.” I then invited all participants to write down their goals in this format. I encouraged them to write at least one specific area for each key part of their lives, including:

1. Income
2. Family & relationship
3. Financial situation
4. Health and fitness

How To Achieve Goals:
I told the leaders to use future orientation to achieve their goals. They were encouraged to think and talk about where they are going in the future on all their key areas of their lives. The way to make it happen is to make a list of things to do, prioritize that list, make it into a plan and then, most importantly to take action on that plan immediately. “You are advised to do something every day towards your major goals” I guided them.

Overcome obstacles:
I then shared with them that life is full of obstacles and challenges. Within every obstacle or difficulty, there is an opportunity or benefit. It is up to you to learn more to come over your difficulties and then enjoy the rewards that come with it. The only real limits to what you can achieve are the ones that you put on yourself by your own doubts and fears.

My Goals:
I ended the training session by demonstrating how goal setting had worked for me in my life. I wrote 5,5 years ago a goal to become General Director within five years, a goal that I achieved in just three years despite many obstacles along the way. I also wrote a goal to have a child, a goal I achieved in two years (my son Percy now being 3,5 years old), and now I am working on my goal to reach perfect and healthy weight along with several other key goals. “If goals work for me, they will work for you too. See you @ the top!” I ended.

The participants in Hanoi, Danang and Ho Chi Minh City all enjoyed the training session and said that it was very useful for both their personal development as well as their career with Sophie Paris.

One of the Ho Chi Minh City leaders, Ms Dao Luong, said “Actually, I had my goals and objectives already before, but I had never written them down in detail, and therefore, I never achieved them. Now, thanks to Nick’s great training, I have finally fully understood the meaningfulness and importance of goal setting. I have from today promised myself to become a Silver President by December 2012, and achieve other specific goals that I wrote down during the training. I will work on my action plan every day to make my life more satisfying!” Photos from the training course at the Head Office – HCMC

Ms. Mai Pham, a leader in Danang, expressed “What Nick said has impressed me deeply. Right in this afternoon, I am soon planning a clear goal and objective that help myself to be better, right here with Sophie Paris”.

Ms Van Mai, a member in Hanoi also said “I have red several types of motivation books before, but this was the first time I am aware about the importance of planning and writing down what is my mind and what I want to achieve in life. I am regretting the past time was a kind of waste, but from now, every minute counts to me.”

Nick’s training was inspired by his five years of MLM experience as well as from the book Being the Best in MLM by MLM guru John Kalench and the book Goals by Brian Tracy.

Welcome to my blog

Dear all,

This is my fist ever blog post, but not the last. I will from now on share my learning’s here. It will be focused on personal and career development including goal setting, the law of attraction, motivation, inspiration, leadership, direct selling and other related areas. I will put up photos, videos, share quotes etc. Hope that you keep an eye out for this space!

See you @ the top!