Tag Archive for Running

Delivering Happiness in Vegas

I arrived in Las Vegas, exhausted after a long flight from Ho Chi Minh City via Seoul, to find my luggage had gone missing. It was 4pm on Friday 29 March and it had taken what seemed like an eternity to get through passport control. When it was obvious that my bag would not be making an appearance on the carousel I asked a lady at the desk where it might be. I told her that I had flown with Korean Airways and was rather stunned when she started to babble on about the threat of a nuclear attack from North Korea! I was tired, I had no luggage and now I was being forced to listen to the ill informed, and frankly irrelevant, opinions of a woman I had asked for help.

My bag was finally located. It had apparently been mislaid during the transfer in Seoul and was now on its way to Los Angeles. I was told that it would be delivered to my hotel within a few hours. I was relieved that at least it had made it to the right part of the right country and went to collect the fabulous convertible Ford Mustang I’d hired for the week. I

The Ford Mustang I hired in Las Vegas and yes it had NO number plates.

raced down the highway and onto the legendary Casino Strip. I was staying at the Golden Nugget in downtown Vegas where I ate a meal and then went to my room to read a book and wait for my bag. Although I tried to stay awake I must finally have dozed off at around 1.30am.

I woke at 4.30am, which gave me plenty of time to prepare for the marathon I was due to start at 6am. I got into the Mustang and made my way into town. While I was stopped at a traffic light a man appeared at my window holding a gun. He asked me to hand over all my belongings. With the weapon just inches from my face I did as he requested without protest. It was obvious to me that this man was not happy, so I asked him how he was doing and why he felt he needed to rob me. He explained that it was because he had no job and needed money to pay for food and rent. Although he had just robbed me at gun point I felt pity for this man and asked if there was anything I might be able to do to help. He was visibly surprised by this but asked me if I could perhaps drive him home. I told him to jump in and give me directions. He told me he lived 20 minutes away. I reassured him that I was not upset about the robbery and that I had no intention of involving the police. It was then that I looked at my watch and realised that it was already 5.30am and there was no way I could drive this man home and make the start of my race.

The choice was not difficult. We talked, exchanged phone numbers and as I dropped him at his door I promised I would be in contact to see how he was getting on and if I could do more to help. I then headed off to the marathon I had come to Las Vegas to run. I arrived at 6.15am and apologized to the organisers. They listened in shock to my story and agreed that I could have a late start. I managed to complete the race, tired and sweaty, less than four hours later.

I was woken suddenly by the sound of my hotel room’s doorbell. It was the bell boy delivering my bag. I checked my watch and saw that it was 2am. I had only been asleep for half-an-hour. I took my bag and lay back down on my bed struck by how real the dream I’d just had seemed. My bed was soaked in sweat, as if I had just run a marathon. Did the dream mean something? Was my subconscious trying to communicate that however important running might be in my life it is far more important for me to help others? My mind then wondered back to one of the most fulfilling, happiest times of my life. I was at university in Australia when I, together with my wife, organised a charity golf event for a young boy dying from Leukaemia. Together we managed to raise US$18,500 and I remember realising at the time that this was what I was born to do. I tried to get back to sleep, but all I could do was reflect on the message from my dream.

At 6am I drove to Bellagio for its world famous Easter brunch. I then spent the rest of the morning visiting various running and cycling stores to buy equipment for my first ever triathlon on the island of Bali on 23 June. By the time I was finished I was tired. It had been a long day. But I had booked a 21km run around Red Rock Canyon at 4pm. Because I had not had much sleep the night before I considered calling Las Vegas Running Tour to cancel. As I picked up the phone I realised that I was making up excuses for backing out. Winners never lose and losers never win. I put down the phone and told myself to just go for it. I also promised myself that I would not use being tired as an excuse for not performing to the best of my abilities with my running guide, Jimmy.

I met up with Jimmy, my running guide, at the Red Rock Casino at 3.30 in the afternoon. I was instantly struck with how positive he was and how full of energy. We clicked immediately and it felt like we had known each other forever. We arrived at Red Rock Canyon, with its impressive sandstone rock formations, at 4pm and started our desert run. It was immediately obvious that Jimmy was extremely fit as he attacked the hills at

Jimmy & Nick at the Red Rock

full tilt. He told me that so far in his life he had completed seven Iron Man competitions. Impressed I asked him how he had managed to complete so many of these extremely physically gruelling triathlons. He replied that it was all down to a great deal of hard work and self-discipline. I then pressed him further and asked whether he felt he applied this hard work and discipline to other areas of his life. The look on his face told me that he had realised that he did not. It was obvious that Jimmy didn’t lack ambition because he told me that he had a dream of expanding his business, just that he was not sure what action to take to make the dream a reality.

I know the only way to achieve something is to create a solid plan and then work towards it, every day, without getting distracted. I explained to Jimmy that having a vague idea that he would like to grow his business was a bit like preparing for an Iron Man by going out for a run every now and then. We talked some more and decided that my new fiend should start by educating himself. I told him I would jot down the names of a couple of books I thought he might enjoy by self-help experts Brian Tracy and Anthony Robbins. We

The books Jimmy purchased. Little did I know at the time I recommended them that I would meet the author of one of them just a few days later. The Law of Attraction in Action!

continued to chat and our run around the canyon went well. We arrived back at the car park in just under two-and-a-half hours.

Jimmy checked his watch and told me that we had completed 20km. I may have been exhausted, but I had planned to complete the half-marathon distance of 21km. I told Jimmy this, and with a wry smile he suggested a few laps of the car park. We must have looked like a pair of madmen to onlookers, but I didn’t care. We finished 21km as I had set out to do in 2 hours and 34 minutes. I was hot, tired and extremely happy. The run was perfect preparation both mentally and physically for the week ahead.

The reason I was in Las Vegas was to attend the three-day Zappos Culture Boot Camp. It started on Tuesday morning and is geared towards training leaders to create and maintain positive culture changes in the workplace.

The camp is the brainchild of Tony Hsieh, the man behind shoe and clothing retailer

Tony, 39 years old and Nick, 37 years old, having a chat in his "Delivering Happiness" bus. Tony sold Zappos to Amazon for 1.2 billion dollars which made me realize that I just have two years to go before I also should be a dollar billionaire. Got to think BIG!

Zappos.com and author of New York Times bestseller, ‘Delivering Happiness: A Path to Profits, Passion and Purpose’. I joined my colleague Andru and 36 other business professionals from a number of different industries, but mainly ecommerce. It was an incredible experience to spend time at the offices of the online shoe giant that was set up in 1999 and then sold to Amazon.com for USD 1.2 billion a decade later.

At Zappos we were taught how to better create a vision and core values, improve human resources and recruiting, develop core culture changes, offer better service to customers, better coaching and training sessions to our staff and broaden our goals. We also had the chance to visit the Fremont East neighbourhood of the city where Tony has set up various projects aimed at revitalising this part of downtown Vegas. It was then time to see Tony’s apartment and have a Q&A session with the man himself. I was like a child in a toy store because we were discussing topics that I am truly passionate about.

Nick had a CULTURE chock at Zappos Las Vegas

By the end my hands were aching because of all the notes I had taken, and I am now keen to begin planning how to adopt the ideas and create an even greater culture in Sophie Paris.

The culmination of the Boot Camp was a Zappos family All-Hands Meeting and Happy Hour attended by all 1200 Zappos employees. The gathering was full of energy and laughter, but my biggest surprise was still to come. Tony introduced the final guest speaker of the day who is one of my all time heroes – the business guru and self-help author Anthony Robbins. Seeing him live has long been on my list of 100 things to do before I die. It was also one of my top 10 personal development goals for 2013. Hearing him speak made me realise how important it is to visualise and write down very clear goals, or as author of ‘The Secret’ Rhoda Byrnes puts it: ‘Ask, Believe, Receive’. I do not believe it is simply down to luck that I keep fulfilling my dreams.You can see the last 20 seconds on his presentation here. This is the level of energy I have at the moment by the way!

Before heading to the airport on Friday, I had another chance to meet up with Jimmy. While in Las Vegas I’d had some time to reflect on our first meeting and made a list of recommended reading and some action points for him to consider. I am very much looking forward to staying in touch with my new friend and watching him turn his dreams and

Jimmy & Nick discussing goals at Wynn Casino by the pool

goals into reality. I received an email from him a few days ago with a photo of four of the books I had recommended attached. I strongly believe that Jimmy has taken his first step towards a more successful, fulfilling and happier life. Buying the books is like signing up to compete in a marathon or triathlon. He has paid the entry fee and now needs to discipline himself to set aside the time to train by reading every day, create a plan for the future and put that plan into action.

I would like to send special thanks you to all the new friends that I met at the Zappos Boot-Camp, especially Andrew Quinn and Kristen from HubSpot and yes you play the Trooper very well Andrew! Nora Crivello from Westak and Bob, Debbie and Richard from Echo 360, do not mention the Moose! And also Jonathan Wolske the Culture Evangelist of Zappos Insight, you really made the House of Blues go through the roof on Thursday night! Was

Nick and Jack having a cigar in Las Vegas

also great to meet Jack Nicholson my all time favorite actor over a beer and cigar (although it might not have been the real one). Had a blast with Sylvie and Natalie, thanks for the Wynn pool pass and green tea Chocolate girls. The trip to Las Vegas has helped me believe even more strongly that my purpose is to inspire and empower others – something that I commit to always do.

No Excuses in Sihanoukville!

Losers make excuses, winners make it happen.

On Sunday 10 March, just 13 weeks after completing my first ever half marathon, I finished my second 21km race in less than two hours. The main aim of the first race was simply for

Nick at the start of the 21km Race in Sihanoukville

me to stay the course, to make it round even if I had to crawl over the finishing-line. The goal for the second was to break the two-hour barrier, something I did with several minutes to spare.

It was important for me to set a very specific target for my second run, and it had to be an improvement on just staying the distance. From the outset I told myself, and everybody around me, that I had to get round in a specific time. That was the thing I focused upon, that was my motivation for getting out and training, and the main reason I achieved my goal.

Planning and setting specific goals and targets is essential for anybody who wants to succeed. For me it is not good enough just aspiring to be fitter, losing weight or eating a better diet, I have to rewrite my goals everyday in order to remain focused and committed to what I am trying to achieve. This is something I was taught by motivational speaker and author Brian Tracy – writing your goals down makes them real in a physical sense.

Looking back over the weeks of training I did for my second half marathon I saw that I had written down: “I completed my half marathon in less than two hours on March 10, 2013” more than 50 times. I even wrote the message to myself just before the race, and by telling myself I had already won, I managed to remain focused. All I then had to do was go through with it physically – something that is so much easier if the mental process has already been taken care of.

I would advise anyone who is perhaps struggling to stay focused on what they want to accomplish to begin every new day by using a pen and paper to jot down their objectives, even if the goals are the same as the day before, as this helps to constantly reaffirm what needs to be achieved. And these goals can be both short- and long-term.

I will continue to do this, not just so I can keep up my training schedule, but so that I can keep other goals in my life in focus. This method has now helped me to safely run two half marathons in three months and I intend to keep adding to these goals and making them more ambitious, while making sure I have a proper plan to achieve them.

Jotting down an objective on a piece of paper is a start, but turning that ambition into reality requires planning and ignoring the temptation to make excuses for ourselves. We are all tempted to take short-cuts in life in order to more easily get what we want, but it is only by disciplining ourselves that we can realise our long-term goals. As the late American entrepreneur and personal achievement philosopher Jim Rohn said: “Discipline is the bridge between goals and accomplishment.”

However, even with the most careful planning, we must not forget that life still has the ability to throw out the odd surprise or two. The half marathon took place in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, a place I visited 13 years ago. I arrived on the day of the race and was surprised that the peaceful beach village I remembered was actually surrounded by steep hills. Although I hadn’t expected a completely flat course, my heart started racing. I had been training on the level streets of Ho Chi Minh City where I had carefully worked out I could manage each kilometre in just under 5 minutes and 40 seconds. This would bring me over the finishing line in just less than two hours. But how was I going to manage this over hilly terrain!?

The problem was almost solved for me because in my panic I lost my race tag. Without this I would be disqualified and my dream would be over. I rushed to the registration office, and to my relief the organisers agreed to issue me with a replacement. I was also extremely tired because I had only managed to get a couple of hours sleep the night before when the advice before a race like this is to get at least eight. So I arrived at the start line stressed, tired and nervous. The race was also delayed by 15 minutes, and each of those minutes felt like a lifetime.

At 6.15am the gun was fired, and we were off. I gained some confidence after finishing the first kilometre in just five minutes and was pleased that I managed to find my stride over the next few. However the hilly terrain quickly began to wear me down and I have to admit there were a few times when I wanted to just give up. Kilometre number 14 was my slowest. With a third of the race still to complete my time over 1,000 metres slipped to six minutes leaving me doubtful that I would be able to keep the pace I needed to finish in less than two hours.

I dug in and fought on eventually making it over the line in 56 minutes and 33 seconds, well under my target!

I have wondered how I was able to achieve my goal when everything looked like it was never going to happen before and during the race. I think the answer is that it was down to the fact that I had been telling myself for weeks that failing was not an option. I could have used the unexpected hills an excuse to give up at any point, but I have taught myself to be far more disciplined than I once was, and that sort of excuse is no longer acceptable to me.

I now understand Jacqueline Gareau, Boston Marathon champion, who once said: “The body does not want you to do this. As you run, it tells you to stop but the mind must be

My body says no but I keep pushing. With a strong will we can do more than we think.

strong. You always go too far for your body. You must handle the pain with strategy…It is not age; it is not diet. It is the will to succeed.”

That is not to say that I have not benefitted immensely from working with some top trainers, attending running clinics, consulting doctors and nutritionists and getting in contact with other marathon runners. I have also been lucky enough to take advantage of the latest technology. I cannot recommend the running app Endomondo Sports Tracker highly enough!

My next big physical challenge will be the Oland marathon in my home country of Sweden. In November last year I added running a full marathon to my list of goals before I turn 40. However, my fitness level has increased quicker than I ever could have expected, so I have decided to go for it in July. I know the distance will be hard on me, especially my feet and knees, and I know that I still need to lose some weight. As writer and runner Hal Higdon puts it: “The difference between the mile and the marathon is the difference between burning your fingers with a match and being slowly roasted over hot coals.”

Tired but happy after the race. Looking forward to my next physical achievement.

As those who have read my previous blogs will know, I was informed after twice rupturing my Achilles tendon that I would never be able to run again. Since the day I was told this by a doctor I have made it my goal to complete a full marathon. I am sure that when I am 30km into the Oland race in a few months time I will want to give up, I will want to find an excuse to throw in the towel. But the only thing I will regret is if I do not try. When I am 80-years-old I want to look back at my life and say I crossed that 42 kilometre line and remember it as one of the greatest physical achievements of my life.

Finally I would like to say thank you to my lovely wife Sofi and son Percy for all their patience and understanding while I have been at the gym or out running rather than spending time at home with them. Thanks to Nutrifort Gym for the fitness services, and especially to my personal trainers Stephane and Greg, and to Phil for his great nutritional advice. Also a huge thanks to Matt and Ulrik my running buddies. You always pushed me when I was on the verge of giving up, and I hope you don’t mind that I pushed you back!

Doomed to Die Young

I may be doomed to die young. This fact was made clear to me recently after my 61-year-old father had a heart attack. Fortunately he survived, but I know that heart problems are often hereditary. So I telephoned my grandfather in Sweden last week to ask him if our family has a history of heart problems. I was shocked by what he told me.

His own father died of a heart attack at the age of 49 and I was stunned to learn that three of his brothers and one of his sisters had also died of heart attacks when they were even younger. Even my grandfather, who is 81, recently underwent heart surgery. I now want to understand how he has survived against the odds and perhaps more fully understand how I can improve my own chances of avoiding the same fate as so many members of my family.

My father suffered his heart attack on 1 October this year while he was at the gym. He was rushed to hospital where surgeons performed bypass surgery. Fortunately he made a speedy recovery and is now back on his feet. But why did he have a heart attack? He does not have an unhealthy lifestyle; he eats well and exercises regularly.

He suffered a heart attack because of his genetic make-up. His body is conditioned to suffer heart problems. The only reason he survived is because he is fit. I have since been studying the subject and have learned that I am also at risk. I now have to decide how to prepare for something that may be inevitable.

At the time my father had his heart attack I was training for my first half-marathon. This meant I was already in an intensive fitness regime. The news that my father had become ill further spurred me on to stick to my training, and on 2 December I completed the race.

Brian Tracy taught me the importance of discipline, something that I could not have completed the half-marathon without knowing. He says:

“The ability to discipline yourself to delay gratification in the short term in order to enjoy greater rewards in the long term, is the indispensable prerequisite for success.”

I left Sweden 14 years ago, and since then have not remained in close contact with my grandfather. This was the first time we had spoken properly in over a year but I needed to pick up the phone and learn more about my family’s medical history. What he told me convinced me that I have to live a healthier life. I know that we will all die some day, but I also know that we can put that day off for as long as possible by getting more exercise and eating a healthier diet.

The combination of my father’s heart attack and the conversation I had with my grandfather gave me the push I needed to commit to a lifestyle change. I have since read books and articles on how a healthier lifestyle can help to prevent heart problems.

One of those books is ‘The Zone’ by Barry Sears. In it he describes how to revolutionise one’s life plan, how to lose weight and how to get the body and mind back into balance. From chapter one I knew that telephoning my grandfather had probably saved my life, and I am now getting the information I need to live a longer and happier life.

Like me, there is a history of heart attacks in Barry’s family. He explains that he is a genetic time-bomb and that his body is programmed in a way that makes it more likely he will suffer from heart disease when he is older. It was a shock to find out that I am the same. However, because I now know this I can face the fact and make the difficult choices that need to be made.

In the couple of weeks since completing the half-marathon I have found my discipline slipping. Although I have still been exercising several times a week, my diet is not as healthy as it was when I was training for the race. It is also Christmas, which doesn’t help!

My grandfather’s warning has pushed me back on track. I will be fitter, I will lose more weight, and will gain more strength. I have already signed up for my next half-marathon on 10 March 2013 in Sihanoukville, Cambodia. I know that if I am to complete the race in a good time I will have to commit to regular training sessions, healthy food and almost no alcohol. I did it before, so I can do it again!

So, why do I push myself so hard to be fit? In the short term I just want to feel healthy. I now have more energy, I am happier and I can perform to a higher level. In the medium term my goal is to run a full marathon before my 40th birthday; and in the longer term, I want to live full life and be around to see my son graduate from university.

I have learned that it is only when we are pushed to the edge of a cliff that we are forced to change. It is only after knowing failure that we can decide on what needs to be changed in order to win. For me my father’s heart attack and what I was told by my grandfather were a stark warning. I am now determined to take control of my own destiny by changing the things I need to change now.

Fat before fit. Drunk before sober. Unhappy before happy. It seems like that we have to fail before we win.

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.