Fetcheveryone Member of the Month

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Interview with Helegant

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

Helegant says: pedroscalls, thank you. That question has set me dreaming about the Arctic Circle, and The Andes trail, or the some of those lovely Swiss routes. But in reality I don't have a bucket list, and I suspect that joints and tendons and my inherent laziness are greater limiting factors than time and budget. :-)
LazyDaisy asks: Congratulations and very well deserved! Has LEJOG surprised you about yourself or the country?

Helegant says: LazyDaisy, thank you, and thank you for your question. The biggest surprise has been how decent, kind and big-hearted most people are. I've met people from different backgrounds and cultures to me, have stayed with total strangers, and everywhere I've been, I've been treated well. As a result I'm much less cynical than I used to be about people and their motives, and I've chilled a lot about small stuff. It's impossible to repay the favours I've received, but I can and do pass them on to other people, and the whole experience has left me more aware of our interconnectedness. Basically, I'm OK and you're OK, and more folks are more OK than I used to think :-)
Diogenes asks: Congratulations Helegant. I’m sure your mind must wander across all kinds of topics while you are walking, but do you have a favoured starting point to get you going before the sun-conscious takes over?

Helegant says: Diogenes, thank you. Have you been listening to my singing? :-) I have a mantra that says to ignore anything my body says to me for the first hour of walking - there seems to be a self-sabotage thing going on to persuade me to stop as soon as possible. So I have to ignore it, which means finding a displacement tactic. That often means concentrating hard on a maths problem (how many steps do I take in a mile?), or making up a song about the walk. And I focus a lot on the practical aspects of walking, not falling over, taking care where I put my feet etc. I try not to think too much about the day's walk or to look at the distance to go until I'm within 10 miles of the destination. My focus is usually the next quarter of a mile! I play mind-games, "I'll stop at the top of the hill for a drink", "I'll have a lunch break when I'm just over half-way", "It's a half-marathon, only 10k to go, a parkrun to go, one lap around the track etc" Eventually, as you've rightly surmised, the sub-conscious takes over and I enjoy the meditative aspects of the walk. The last couple of miles however, are a different story!
fraggle asks: Do you still have your sparkly Moonwalk bra ?

Helegant says: Ha ha Fraggle. Sadly no. I kept it for many years as a daft souvenir, but it was a casualty of decluttering when I moved house. Goodness knows what the charity shop staff thought of it! "The" photograph crops up on a regular basis on Facebook though, and I think it has also appeared on Fetch too.
Jubear asks: Well done Helegant, you’ve earned this. We’ve sort of met, but only as ships passing in the night, and I’m curious about your background: how did you conclude that splash/wobble/plod, and then LEJOG, were A Thing? I guess I’m really asking if you are a reformed runner?

Helegant says: Jubear, thank you. I haven't done much running recently, but do plan to get back to it once my legs have recovered from LEJOG. I do prefer challenges with a defined start and end point.

I did a couple of mini-triathlons in 198n at La Santa, so when someone on Fetch suggested a tri as a challenge for 2017 it was easy to say "'I'm in." And of course it needed lots of new kit ;-) I enjoyed pretending to be an athlete, and it was good to do the event with other Fetchies - we encouraged each other, and that was fun.
LEJOG was one of those "Wouldn't it have been nice to do this when I was younger, shame it's too late now" thoughts that turned into, "Hang on, don't say why you can't, work out how you can." And then, having worked out that it was possible, it was simply a matter of getting on with it. I'm feeling quite good about being consistent for the last six months and 'just getting on with it'. That gives me hope for my running in future :-)
Serendippily asks: Congratulations! And thank you I’ve got very absorbed in your lejog travels. What’s next? Also as someone who used to be injury prone how have you managed to eke such incredible distances out of your body?

Helegant says: Serendippily, thank you. That's two good questions, and thank you for looking after me so well on TBC to stop me from overdoing things!

My next challenge is to switch from 'challenge' mode to 'consistent maintenance' for 2019. I think I'd benefit from consistent running training over shorter distances so that I can build some resilience and push myself to run a bit faster. I'm aiming for a fairly conservative for some, but challenging for me, 55% WAVA over 5k. And I want to get back to some reasonable level of swimming fitness. Maybe a swim challenge?

Injury prevention. I've been very strict with myself, using some very basic precautions "in no particular order:"
1. Deliberately setting shorter, but achievable and repeatable, distances than many of the 'macho' backpackers.

2. I've been very fortunate to have found a good physio (KatieB of this parish) who is gentle but effective in her ministrations, and so modest and self-effacing that I know she'll be embarrassed to read this. Thank you Kate.
3. I split the walk into phases and gave myself time to recover from the damage caused before starting again.
4. Walking poles. (Probably the least fashionable accessory)
5. Pragmatism, pragmatism, pragmatism. Being prepared to change plans when needed.
Wombling Plodder (Welsh Womble) asks: My question has already been asked by Wobbling so just want to say Congratulations and thanks for you support on the last 2km of Bedford 10k last year _ little did I know that you were a fab Fetchie at the time :-)

Helegant says: Wombling Plodder (Welsh Womble), thank you. What goes around comes around. It was lovely to meet you, and following your back for a while was what got me through a tough bit of the race for me.
DocM asks: Well done. You obviously have fabulous support at home to allow you to take part in your adventures, do you get spoilt when you get back or just have lots of things to catch up with. ?

Helegant says: DocMoye, I'm laughing. Mr is very supportive and I do get a certain amount of spoiling, which is lovely. Mr always tries to have a meal waiting for me when I get back from a walk. However... there are always lots of things to catch up on, and with the best will in the world, although we normally split the work, Mr tends to continue to do 'his' share and not notice when 'my' jobs aren't done. Then I arrive home and make a mess everywhere spreading out unpacking and washing and catching up on post and parcels and bills and cleaning and... well, if you do your own fair share in the home, you can guess. :-)
Ness asks: Congratulations on MOTM. Well deserved too! My question is.... When you finish the end of your LEJOG challenge, Have you got a celebration planned? And if so what would it be?

Helegant says: Ness, thank you. I don't have a celebration planned, but I think champagne might be in order. The only danger is that I'll sit down, press the recline button and fall asleep with Jet snoring on my lap :-)
run free asks: Awesome MOTM. Nearlyy there! What advice now would you give someone wanting to do LEJOG?

Helegant says: run free, thank you.

As with any challenge I would say, do it! But know yourself and work within your own physical, mental, emotional and spiritual capabilities; prepare where you can, take the right kit (and learn how to use it), and don't panic when things don't go according to plan. 'Thinking' is much under-rated and there is usually an alternative solution to any problem.
I like my own company and also enjoy being with other people, so the social aspect isn't a problem for me, but the physical aspects of the challenge needed a lot of thought, and there are many practical things to consider e.g how much can you carry without breaking, where will you get fresh water?

For me the planning was important because I quite like to have a framework, and daily targets, but someone else might hate that level of control.
Be open to change, aware of what's going on around you, and go out and enjoy it.
westmoors asks: Congratulations. If you could meet anybody, past or present, who would it be and why?

Helegant says: westmoors, thank you. Anyone? I tend not to have heroes or heroines so there isn't a single person, with perhaps the exception of Jesus. But what would be wonderful, if I had the time machine, would be to go back and talk to my grandmother Edie. She died when I was eight years old so I didn't know her well. I'd like to meet her as an equal and ask her more about her life and the decisions she made. I'm told that I'm the 'dead spit' of her, and it would be fascinating to see that, and to exchange ideas and opinions, and I'd love to know where I get my stubborn streak from.
Columba asks: Many congratulations; very well deserved. My question: is there any advice beyond the obvious (health and safety, forward planning etc.) which you would give to someone thinking of undertaking a Very Long Walk off road?

Helegant says: Thank you Columba, and we'll done on your recent running progress. I think the most important preparation is brain training. So, know why you want to do it, and make sure that reason will always trump the voices that try to get you to stop. In that respect I think it's a bit like parenting :-)
HappyG(rrr) asks: Many congratulations! What is your favourite charity or good cause to support and why? Well done again. :-) G

Helegant says: HappyG(rrr), thank you. I have several 'favourite' charities that I raise money for, and some where my contribution is practical. It's important to me that I have an emotional investment, so my current choices are based on my faith and my life experience.
LEJOG is in aid of the Pancreatic Cancer Research Fund http://www.pcrf.org.uk/. My mother died of this cancer, so it is close to my heart to try to get better diagnosis and treatment.
I've also raised money for Headway https://www.headway.org.uk/. My late sister-in-law experienced traumatic brain injury and Headway were one of the organisations that offered practical help to the family during a very difficult time.

Not everything is fundraising though. For instance I work as a volunteer facilitator and listener for at least one weekend a year for Divorce Recovery Workshop drw.org.uk (it does amazing work - or rather, the attendees do, with a bit of help!)
There is other stuff, like local campaigns to keep a school open, and another one against an incinerator. Basically, wind me up and I'll try to make a difference :-)
KatieB asks: Very well done. Out of all the miles you have walked which is your absolute favourite?

Helegant says: Thank you KatieB. My all-time favourite mile wasn't on LEJOG. It was the last mile of the Ridgeway walk approaching Ivinghoe Beacon. It was a beautiful day, lovely walking, gentle rolling landscapes and I looked out at countryside I knew really well, with lots of stand-out landmarks. For some reason the sense of completion, and of a walk that was so pastorally attractive, was overwhelming. I approached the Beacon in tears. Daft as a brush!
um asks: Firstly - well done, much deserved. Very interesting blogs & details on extended lejog & associated adventures.
My question - given your profession - how do you react and or cope when people really upset you? Do you control it or ever let rip? (Examples please.)

Helegant says: Than you um. Of course I get as irritated or annoyed as anyone else, but I tend not to 'let rip'. I did once, in 1977, and the people involved remember it well and haven't made the same mistake since (neither have I)
I'm no saint and I 'fizz' a lot. If I'm really cross, usually about injustice, then I choose my words with great care so there is no room for misunderstanding. I prefer not to raise my voice, and I try not to attack the person, only the problem. If I can't sort something then I eat chocolate.
Litter annoys me, so I complain about it, but it's been more useful to actually pick it up and put it in a bin. :-)
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