Fetcheveryone Member of the Month

Each winner receives a £100 ADVANCE PERFORMANCE voucher

Interview with Flatlander

pedroscalls asks: Congratulations on a well deserved MoTM win. My question is if money and time were no object what route or race would you want to do?

Flatlander says: Thank you Pedro. If Richard Branson were to offer me his private jet to take me somewhere I’d turn him down on environmental grounds. With that in mind, whilst one of the Arctic or Antarctic races would be a wonderful experience, my conscience couldn’t justify the damage I’d cause so those types of runs would be out.

When I retired, I thought I’d become a “race tourist” going off for long weekend “holidays” to take in races in beautiful cities like Prague or Vienna but things haven’t turned out like that. I wouldn’t mind doing one of the Alpine races, or further afield, in the Rockies (just to test my head for heights ;-)), and running for the experience and enjoyment rather than a time. Basically, anywhere that is friendly, enthralling and scenic.
Autumnleaves asks: Many congratulations on a well deserved MotM. You are very good at pacing - what strategy do you favour most for keeping someone to their target pace?

Flatlander says: Apart from various Fetch Miles I’ve only ever paced one person, which was in a long race when I used distraction techniques plus other methods to get them to speed up a little without them realising, although looking back perhaps I should have been firmer and a bit more forceful instead of trying to make it as pleasant an experience for them as possible ;-). If I were to pace an individual again I’d probably take that firmer line if they were agreeable.

All my other pacing has been as an official pacer for a specific time in events and it’s up to runners to keep up with me, although I will try and encourage individuals around me by chatting with them. In those runs, I carry a list of times that I should reach at each mile point, accounting for terrain and early congestion and trying to maintain as even a pace as possible so that accompanying runners aren’t faced with a dash for the finish, using my Garmin to give me a rough idea of how on track I am. I could run fairly closely to the required time without a Garmin since after so many years of running I’m so attuned to my body when running that my Garmin shows I’m usually running within about 10 seconds/mile of the pace I think I am, but I need to be more accurate than that for pacing.

I gave a greater in-depth personal view on pacing at http://www.fetcheveryone.com/blog-view.php?id=37839&m=3&y=2015#blog331281

I find pacing very rewarding seeing runners achieve their targets :-), and it is one of many ways in which I return something to the sport that has given me so much :-).
D2 asks: I'm chuffed to see you here, well deserved. Please can you explain what started your interest in yoga?

Flatlander says: Thank you D2, I’m pleased to be here. Your question ties in with Wobbling’s and Garfield’s in that I was exploring ways of getting the best out of myself and yoga was one of those. I’m self confident enough not to let the fact that I am male put me off participating in what is commonly perceived as a female activity. Due to my long working hours I was never able to go to classes, apart from one at a fitness weekend, so I had to resort to teaching myself from a book (I had no DVD player in those days ;-)). Not surprisingly, I wasn’t doing it entirely correctly as I found out when I did start classes, but it gave me a basic grounding.

Yoga is an example of me being ahead of current trends, where in the last few years some professional footballers have started to practise yoga which I hope will encourage more men not to dismiss it so readily.
Night-owl asks: Congratulations Flatlander. What has been your favourite race and why?

Flatlander says: I used to like the St. Neot’s HM but I haven’t been able to race that for a few years. I seem to like the smaller races where the atmosphere is friendlier and the organisation is by runners who know what runners want. Unfortunately, these types of races are becoming fewer due to H&S, increasing costs and the difficulty in getting volunteers to help with the organisation, etc.

Someone once suggested I should take part in the Great North Run – I recoiled in horror at the thought!

Unlike some other questions which I’ve sidestepped a bit, this answer is fairly simple bearing in mind what I’ve written above. My favourite race has got to be the Rhayader Round the Lakes 20 Miles in mid Wales. It’s a tough testing course, with stunning scenery, it’s small (300 – 400 finishers), run by the local athletics club, no frills or fancy turns (are you listening GNR with your Red Arrows?) and there is much friendliness amongst runners. It’s no wonder I’ve run it 9 times :-)!
westmoors asks: Congratulations. Who (alive or dead) would you most like to meet and why?

Flatlander says: Thank WM. This may be quite self-centred but it would be my Mum so I could thank her yet again for everything she did for me involving many sacrifices by her, instilling good traits in me and encouraging me to do my best. While she was still living, I made sure that she knew how much I appreciated her.
DocM asks: great to see you as MOTM. you always have such an upbeat attitude to what life throws at you. I thnk mental attitude is a huge part of getting your best out of a race. What race over the years has been your own personal biggest challenge/accomplishment and what strategies have you used to get through it.

Flatlander says: I wholeheartedly agree with you about mental attitude playing a huge part in getting the best out of a race.

The two races I mention in reply to .B’s question were ones where before them I was absolutely convinced that I was going to have an excellent race and I did.

At the opposite end of the spectrum, two years ago I had a 20 miles race (not Rhayader) which turned into a nightmare. I didn’t really have a strategy for getting through it, just my determination not to give up but keep going. Just after 10 miles my quads started to seize up, and by 13 miles I was slowing very badly. I employed those commonly used subterfuges such as counting steps “that’s another ¼ mile gone”, “run to the top of the next rise” (there were a lot ;-)), “keep that runner in sight”, split the remaining distance into 5kms, count down how far to go, you get the idea of all those little tricks. Most of all it was “I will finish”. I’ve never had a race DNF :-).
Nightjar asks: Congrats. Where was your most enjoyable (tranquil, spiritual, scenic, whatever) yoga moment?

Flatlander says: I have a good focus so sometimes when holding a pose I can be oblivious to what is happening around me which can be interesting in classes. My spiritual aspect of yoga isn’t that deep but it does complement my lifestyle and perspective. I haven’t practised yoga in any exotic places so the most scenic has been when on a warm sunny day a class is taken outside next to trees– we often end up doing the “tree” “crow” or “eagle” poses in the company of birds singing ;-)! Outdoors in warm sunshine amongst nature seems the perfect setting for yoga :-).
Serendippily asks: Well done. What made you first post on Fetch and what has kept you here?

Flatlander says: That’s an interesting question Serendippily, which made me think. I had to go and check my blogs, and the first one was on 13th February 2010. That was in the days when only a few blogs were viewable until the next ones came along, and everyone’s blogs got only 10 or less views, so like most others my motivation for blogging wasn’t to get views but for my own record of what I was doing.

With the current system where blogs are viewable for a couple of days instead of perhaps only an hour, my reason for continuing to blog has changed a bit. Having become more assured about blogging I am quite happy to write about things which I hope are of interest to others, such as my blog about Iron earlier this year and a short series about the earth’s orbit and revolution in January 2015. I do also write about my running, more, as above, to record how I was doing. Other non-running things that affect my running or might be generally interesting to others get included as well.

All that gives me plenty of reason to keep blogging, although I’ll never be a Blogadawer as I’m too busy doing other things (is it alright to admit I’m not on Fetch every minute of the day? ;-)).

If you meant what has kept me on Fetch all these years, then it’s the same as many others have found. Fetch is a community which supports its family, and virtual friends exist who when meeting in life often turn into real friends. It’s the complete opposite of forums on a certain running magazine’s website which are filled with bile, nastiness, one-upmanship, condescension, etc.
Fenland Flier asks: Congratulations, a well deserved award for someone who is always upbeat whatever life throws at him and always on hand with the right words to lift someone or give advice on their running.
So what to ask! I suppose we can say our best running years are behind us but do you still have any running targets / aims, peebee's or wava's you would like to beat?

Flatlander says: Those are kind words from you FF. The main aim is to remain healthy enough to continue running as for as many years as possible. At my age, you’d be right about my fastest running years being behind me, but I’m sure there may still some “best” years ahead (I’m ever the optimist :-)), although of a different nature. There will never be another PB time although a WAVA PB could be a realistic aim – my best is (looks up Fetch record) 77.34%, so 80% is something to aim for. If ever I were to achieve that it would most likely be over a distance longer than 10k. You’ve just given me an incentive ;-)!
Watford Wobble asks: Very pleased you have won MOTM. Why Flatlander? My association is with the BMX discipline but can't imagine you have chosen you name for that reason. You are a true gent a pleasure to meet.

Flatlander says: Thank you WW for your support and all the kind things you’ve said since we first met. The answer is relatively straightforward – I live in the Flat lands of East Anglia, and Flatlander has a nice sound to it and rolls off the tongue easily :-). Trouble is, it seems to be such a nice name that other people use it :-/. Perhaps I should register it to stop them using it :-p.
Winded asks: Congratulations, very well deserved. We all know you are a regular at MCP parkrun, running helping out or both. What is your favourite thing about parkrun?

Flatlander says: Its inclusivity (apologies for using such a word :-(). It’s fine for everyone to get round the course how they wish as long as they make an effort, and they will all be encouraged. What is that effort though? Through my hospital career I’m well aware of the struggles that some people have, and just making the start line is an achievement for them so I would never look down on them. My favourite volunteering role is Barcode Scanning which gives me the chance to speak to people even if it is just a single sentence, and promotes interaction and friendliness.
Heinzster asks: Congratulations! You once mentioned that you could do the scorpion, as in your avatar. How long did it take to master?

Flatlander says: Thank you Heinzster for an interesting question. Although I can just about achieve the Scorpion my back doesn’t arch as much as in the avatar and I can’t claim to have mastered it, since I still totter quite a bit. It took me a couple of years to get to my current level, during which time there were many unscheduled landings :-o! One of my yoga teachers showed me initially how to try but I wasn’t very successful, so I kept attempting by myself, working out what I needed to do – which was to use my core to hold myself steady. Perhaps surprisingly looking at my avatar, great arm strength isn’t needed, it’s about the core, focus, technique and balance.
Bintmcskint asks: Well done, Sir.. Richly deserved :-)
Here's my usual question...you are stranded on a desert island. You can take one type of food, one book and one Fetchie. What and who do you take and why?

Flatlander says: Thanks Bint. The answer is relatively straightforward although perhaps a little evasive ;-).

The food would have to be something sustainable and self-perpetuating in case you’ve cast me away for a very long time :-p. I did think of some sort of cereal, but I’d need to make some grinding equipment which I’m sure I could do if I had to, so perhaps for vitamins it could be brassicas of some type suited to growing on the soil inland.

The book is easy – “How to Survive on a Desert Island” by Flatlander, although it wouldn’t be on general sale until I escaped from my abandonment on the island :-p.

Here’s the evasive part because I wouldn’t want to offend any Fetchies by omitting them ;-). The Fetchie would have to be someone with some different qualities to me since I believe that as well as common traits there should be contrasts in personalities to make one think differently, be challenged and stop getting stale. Life would be boring otherwise, wouldn’t it :-p! That person would be someone who I could talk with, has a cheery disposition and is pragmatic.
.B. asks: Congratulations Flatlander, very well deserved. What is your favourite running/racing memory, one that when you think of it makes you smile?

Flatlander says: Ooh, far too many to choose from! I’ve loved my running life all these many years and have so many wonderful memories :-). The unexpected ones are often the best. Among the many races I could choose from I suppose I would have to select two.
Firstly, the Kedington 5k race that I wrote about in August 2016, where I created a race video in my head beforehand and played it as the race unfolded exactly as I had visualised it and I ran excellently. There was a not dissimilar experience at the Rhayader Round the Lakes 20 Miles in 2011. In both races, I was “in the zone”, totally focussed and in my own bubble. Aside from those, any of my trail runs out into the peace and tranquillity of the countryside and the Fens cause me to stop and smile thinking how lucky I am :-).
For a special non-race running memory, it’s got to be my “Trip to Narnia” in February 2012 http://www.fetcheveryone.com/blog-view.php?id=37839&y=2012&m=2 with an external version with pictures (click the underlined text) 4/5ths the way down the page at runcambridge.org.uk 20 miles cross country in deep snow. Wonderful!
Can you tell I love running? :-p
RichHL asks: Congratulations!

Flatlander says: Thanks RichHL. The answer to your question is “Yes” – provided it’s the one I think you would have asked! ;-)
Corrah asks: Many congratulations on MotM :) I'm going to ask my usual question, so what's your favourite post race tipple and snack. Well done once again.

Flatlander says: Thanks Corrah. Anything which quenches my thirst and refreshes me, which excludes alcohol, is the simple answer, so something as unexciting as water! If I can arrange it, I’ll try to have a protein drink. As for food, anything that is proper food, filling and nutritious that I can get my hands on but dare I commit Fetch heresy? No cake :-o!
Carpathius asks: Awesome, about time you won! What have you got planned, running wise, for the future?

Flatlander says: That’s kind of you Carps. Given my current situation, it’s always going to be the next run or race ;-). Longer term, I suppose I might consider trying to get a good marathon time, although not solely that. If I had run a marathon when I was younger, I might have managed perhaps 2:40 – 2:45 but I wasn’t interested so I didn’t run my first marathon until I was in my early 50s. When I did start running them I thought I might go sub 3:15 but that may be beyond me now (although see my reply to Fenland Flier), so I may have to settle for 3:30 although that would be well within the “Good for age” standard. Apart from that, my plan is to enjoy my running as much and for as long as possible :-).
Garfield asks: Congratulations Flatlander! :) Up until recently your running has been fantastic. What things have helped to keep you running well later in life?

Flatlander says: Thank you G, that’s an interesting question. I’ve got only one body so I’ve got to look after it ;-)! I’ve always been active trying lots of different things especially when I was younger and experimenting. I’ve often been ahead of the curve in several things, so I started specifically cross training in my early adulthood before it became common among non-elites. Because of my scientific interests including biology and anatomy I reasoned that it would reduce the demands on my body compared to if I were to simply just run, and therefore allow it to last longer. In addition, the cross training strengthens those parts of the body needed in running as well as giving a mental change.

I love running, and that enthusiasm keeps me going, at the same time keeping me in check and not overdoing the running because I want to be able to run for as many years as possible. It is also coupled with mental fortitude to be able to put bad runs behind me and think of the next one, and I don’t get mentally stale. The older one gets, the more one wants to enjoy what one still can :-).
Doctor K asks: Well done on achieving the rare accolade of motm. Who is your favourite runner and if different who's the runner who most inspires you in your running?

Flatlander says: Thanks Doctor K.

My favourite runner is fairly easy to choose, although actually it could be a composite of several runners. She’s had a long career so I’ve known of her for many years and seen how she has applied herself and not let frequent setbacks discourage her. The way she was so determined with her refusal to be beaten in the 10,000m Final of the European Athletics Championships in 2014
shows why Jo Pavey is an example to us all.
There isn’t a single runner who inspires my running, rather it’s seeing how Jo Pavey and others (not necessarily elites) set out to be the best they can and don’t let disappointments hold them back.
Bru-Bru asks: That profile picture - blimey, is that you?

Flatlander says: It might be :-p. It could be me since I am shorter than average, slim, moderately bendy and have long hair, and I can (just about) do the Scorpion (see my reply to Heinzster)!

When I was looking for an avatar picture, I knew I wanted a yoga pose. All the internet photos of men I could find were of bare-torsoed extremely muscly brawny men, with shaven heads and multiple tattoos doing power poses – they couldn’t be more different to me! As soon as I saw the avatar photo, I knew that was the one!
MH asks: Congratulations Flatlander - another yoga Q I'm afraid...Have you every travelled to India to practice yoga and if you haven't already, would you like to teach?

Flatlander says: Never be afraid MH ;-). They are interesting questions :-).

I’ve never been to India. The furthest I’ve travelled to a class is when one of my indoor classes moves outside onto the lawn next to the trees when it’s warm and sunny. When I was looking for images for my avatar, I came across lots of photos taken in warm exotic places and they whetted my interest in thinking about travelling to those types of places to practice, but I’ve not yet managed to do so.

As for teaching, when an instructress has been late for class, the other participants have half seriously joked that I should take the class instead. Whilst I might be alright technically, I’m not as “bendy” as a yoga teacher is expected to be, nor, even though I was a good teacher at work, do I have the aptitude to instruct groups of people.
Dvorak asks: Is there a bike trek you would like to take, or a favourite one which you have already done?

Flatlander says: I’ve been on quite a few bike expeditions, two of which were “Once in a lifetime” experiences (I’m very fortunate to have had 4 or 5 of those experiences, not all cycling). A 3 weeks 1,732 cycle-camping trip to Scotland was almost another “Once in a lifetime” experience.

I have a friend who lives in Liechtenstein so once when I went to visit in 1997, I decided to cycle-camp around the Alps before visiting. I planned my route so that I could cycle over the highest road passes on my route that I could find, notably Stilfserjoch on the Swiss-Italian border and Timmelsjoch on the Italian-Austrian border – pictures of the latter are http://www.fetcheveryone.com/gallery-showphoto.php?id=63485 and lotustalk.com

I loved going up those hairpin bends :-)!

In 1993 I went on a 10 weeks 4,500 miles cycle-camping trip from home to the North Cape, Norway. Being so far north, not surprisingly I encountered snow snow even in early June – I loved it!

The mountains weren’t as high as the Alps (although sometimes I started from sea-level) and there were few hairpins, but the scenery was eye-achingly stupendous :-).

The trip was long enough for me to teach myself basic Norwegian, speak it simply, and be understood :-), another reason for it having been such a wonderful time.

I’ve enjoyed my expeditions, not just because of the scenery and meeting different cultures, but also for the challenge of being self-sufficient and navigating my way over 100s and 1,000s of miles - that latter is very satisfying :-).

Apart from repeating the North Cape trip, I’d relish a ride through the Rockies :-), but I’d need a long spell of uninterrupted training before I felt confident enough to tackle anything like those, but I live in hope. As a test, I’d probably try a shortish 1 or 2 weeks tour in Britain. Being a lot older and slower now, I wouldn’t be able to cycle 80 – 100 miles a day laden with 30 – 35kg luggage as I used to – in fact, I don’t think I could cope with that amount of weight for even short distances :-o. 60 – 70 mpd with a lighter load would probably be my limit these days, which means either shorter distances or more days.

Can you tell I like riding up mountains ;-)?
Jubear asks: Congratulations: much deserved. Now then - given that you cycle everywhere, and still turn in some decent run times, I'm interested in whether your cycling is background training, so that you'd ease off before a target race, or has it normalised so completely that you barely acknowledge it? And, if the latter, how long did it take for the effort not to impact on your running?

Flatlander says: Nice question from a keen cyclist who also runs a bit :-).

I’ve been running all my life and cycling a fair bit since my early 20s, so it’s too long ago to remember how long it took to adapt to doing both. Although I race as a runner I’ve never cycle raced. For me cycling is a way to get around, although I often cycle the long way round to go to gym classes, appointments or shopping ;-). Plus of course there are the many cycle tours I’ve undertaken (see my answer to Dvorak).

Over those years I know that the cycling has made a big contribution to my overall fitness due to its cardio vascular element, and has reduced my risk of running injury because of the lack of impact. When I have been unable to run, cycling has helped me to retain some fitness.

There are weeks when I’ve cycled 200 miles, so when a race is looming I do ease off, as much to be able to fit in the running training as to being too tired. Having said that, I have several times cycled to running races – 3 years ago I twice cycled 50 miles round trip for league 5k races, and shorter distances to 10k races, all with no apparent adverse effects on the races. It felt as if the cycle rides acted as good warm-ups rather than tiring me out. I’m not capable of cycling 50 miles for a race these days, but shorter distances are still definitely on.

Cycling is a way of life for me – for over 30 years I cycle commuted to work a round trip of 27 miles a day throughout all seasons and I rarely needed to use my car – so I’m used to it. I think bike first :-).
Sunbed Athlete asks: Congratulations. For an ageing person/athlete/cyclist has the yoga always been part of your regime? Are you more flexible than some younger ageing persons and donyou have a little inner giggle when you see some people? Hopefully you'll get over the other issues soon 😁

Flatlander says: Thanks for the good wishes Sunbed.

I’d only managed to start taking yoga classes when I retired 6 years ago, although I had practised yoga by myself (a bit incorrectly as I found out later) for several years before that. Preceding that, I had always stretched pre and post runs. So, yes, in one form or another, yoga/stretching has always been part of my regime. I notice the difference when there have been spells when I’ve not been able to do either.

I don’t compare myself against others, I just do what I can. Sometimes in classes others compliment me, although I usually respond by reminding them of the things I can’t do, and the things that they can.

What I believe is true though is that I am more flexible, and therefore more freely moving, than if I didn’t stretch or practise yoga. In addition I find that Pilates complements yoga very well and gives me very good core strength, both activities reducing the risk of injuries and contributing greatly to my good posture.
BaronessBL asks: Congratulations on MotM. I see Doctor K has already asked who inspired you in running so I will ask who has inspired you outside of running, whether perhaps a teacher at school or later in life?

Flatlander says: When I was a young child, my Mum repeatedly drummed into me to always try my best and I’ve never forgotten that. That philosophy has stayed with me all my life. Even when I do odd jobs for an elderly neighbour, she usually (kindly) chides me for doing things “properly” ;-), not understanding why I don’t do just enough to get the job done.

Aside from my Mum, I can’t really think of anyone in particular who has inspired me, although there are plenty of people who have influenced me a great deal. I’m always open to ideas, and am not rigid in thinking that only my way is the best, so if I see a better way of doing something, reacting or treating people then I’ll quite happily change my ways.
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