The New York Marathon – a runners perspective…

Hopefully I will be this cheerful at the finish...

Hopefully I will be this cheerful at the finish…

Many of my readers may not know, but I will be running in the New York City Marathon this coming November. I am raising $5,000 for Animals Asia and have called it the Moon Bear Marathon in honour of the moon bears I am helping to save from the horrific practice of bile farming in Asia.

Not being a marathon runner I am a little (a lot) nervous but having read this blog post from Pip Coates, an Australian journalist who blogs about running, I am feeling a wee bit better! See what you think:

If you’re contemplating a trip to New York, the best time to go is in early November and the best way to see the city is by taking a unique tour that covers all five boroughs- Staten Island, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx and Manhattan. The tour takes anywhere from three to five hours and all streets along the route are closed to traffic for your exclusive access; it’s the only New York tour to offer such a service.

Along the way you’ll be entertained by more than 130 live bands, each one a musical representation of the cultural diversity of the neighbourhoods you pass through. Food and drink is provided every kilometre. Numbers are limited to about 45,000 and entry costs from $327 but, despite this, every year it’s harder to score a ticket.

The tour is called the lNG New York Marathon and, yes, you have to run 42.2 kilometres- or 26 miles- non-stop, but that is actually what makes it fun. Especially as you’re doing it with runners from about 80 countries. This event is at once a race, an intense personal challenge, a cultural exchange, a sightseeing tour, a music festival and a giant carnival. If there’s only one marathon in you, this should be it because it’s the only marathon in the world with enough crowd power to help carry you over the line.

The race begins from Staten Island with a steady climb up and over the two kilometre-long Verrazano Narrows bridge that spans the Hudson River. Manhattan – your final destination –looks very far away. As the sun rises, 45,000 pairs of sneakers smack the bitumen. Some runners record the moment on their smartphones; others cheer. The adrenaline courses through your veins; the scene is so at odds with the hours of solitary training in pre-dawn winter darkness that you ‘ve endured to get here.

OMG!

OMG!

Once over the Narrows your marathon tour arrives in Brooklyn and a rapturous greeting from the first of some 2 million spectators who will be lining the course and waving signs saying “Black toenails are sexy” , “You’ve got stamina! Call me”, and “You are NOT nearly there”.

The sidewalk enthusiasm evaporates as you enter Brooklyn ‘s ultra-orthodox Jewish neighbourhood where the locals appear to consider you an invading alien force, which to some extent you are. But a few streets later you’re back in the madness passing a yarmulka-wearing rock band with a banner out front declaring: “Shalom to all kosher marathoners. ”

After Brooklyn and Queens, you traverse the long and steep Queensborough Bridge. New York is the hilliest of the five major marathons (Boston, London, Berlin and Chicago are the other four)and here, at about the 15-mile mark, you need to stay focused . You descend into the exit tunnel, take a 90-degree turn and emerge at the southernmost end of First Avenue, Manhattan.

You know you’ve arrived in Manhattan before you see it. The almost deafening roar of countless cheering spectators ricochets off the tunnel walls and when you emerge onto the avenue the scene is staggering: thousands upon thousands of runners and fans stretch straight ahead of you for almost 70 blocks: Those 70 blocks get pretty tedious, however, and despite some entertaining signage (“Run total stranger, run “), it’s almost a relief to cross another bridge into the Bronx. This is the 20-mile mark and things can get a bit hazy. You’re tired and a little voice is trying to fill your head with negative thoughts. Then someone goes and waves a banner saying “It’s OK to cry”. Just as you consider doing so, the live music intervenes. This time it’s Alicia Keys (sounds like her, looks like her) singing Empire State of Mind. You kick on.

Your tour arrives back on Manhattan at 138th Street. It’s time for the return push south along the island – 48 blocks of straight grind up Fifth Avenue. Fortunately the crazy supporters haven’t run out of puff and when at last you turn into Central Park at 90th street, it’s a blessed relief. Yes, you will hurt and there will be scenes of carnage among some of the other runners, but the magnificent, dazzling display of autumn colours throughout the park can still fill you with joy.

With about 2.2 miles to go it’s time to draw on all your reserves of mental strength and remind yourself how to run properly as your body is close to seizing up in protest. It’s time to think about why you signed up for this tour, how much it means to you, who you are doing it for.

A few more bends in the road, the faces flash by and then you hear the blissful sound of the race announcer counting down the final few hundred metres. It’s all you can focus on: the finish line, the blue timing mats, the crowds in the stands, the overhead electronic timing clocks.

You run so hard to the end- and then it’s over. You can stop, but you can hardly stand, the emotion is overwhelming. Someone wraps you in a heat sheet, someone else pins it together and then someone drapes a heavy medal around your neck and takes a photo. You’ve completed the world’s biggest marathon. And you’ve got a medal to prove it.

If you would like to help me achieve my $5,000 goal towards the rescue of  moon bears from bile farming feel free to donate here!

Read Pip’s blog here. 

Clearing Your Life for a New Year

Isn’t it funny that someone just happens to write something just at the time you need it? Leo Babauta from Zen Habits has done it again. Check out this post about clearing your life for the New Year:

Every January, people rush out and get a gym membership, set a list of goals or resolutions, and get ready to take on a new year of frenetic activity.

Unfortunately, we don’t often clear space to make room for all this new stuff.

The beginning of the year is a great time for renewal of energy and taking on the things we’ve always wanted to tackle — clutter, fitness, work we’re passionate about, debt, and so on. But it’s also a great time to clear out your life, starting out the year on a blank page that’s ready to be filled.

While everyone’s life is different, I’ll share some of what I do to clear out my life.

  • Review the year to think about what I learned, what mistakes I made, what I accomplished.
  • Clear my schedule as much as possible. That often means saying no to people.
  • Wrap up old projects, end commitments to people, so that my work plate is clearer than normal.
  • Toss out old fitness and eating plans, to make room for new experiments.
  • Clear my email inbox. If I haven’t answered the email recently, it’s probably not important, so I archive it. Act on or answer other emails, so that my inbox is emptied.
  • Clear out other inboxes. That might be an inbox on a social network, or a list of things I wanted to do or read, or any kind of list really. File them away under someday, or delete or archive. Anything that’s taking some mental energy because I know I need to get to it, gets cleared.
  • Clear my computer files. Usually this means deleting a bunch of files I don’t need, but I also just consolidate files into one folder or put them in an online archive (like in Dropbox).
  • Clear paperwork. I rarely have any papers these days — I’ve slowly turned everything digital. But I still get things in the mail sometimes, so if I have any lying around, I dispose of them to clear out any remaining paperwork.
  • Clear clutter. If there are areas that have become cluttered, I clear them out. Often it just means taking a box or bag of things that I’ve been meaning to donate to Goodwill.
  • Clear my errands. I’ll make a list of all the errands I’ve been putting off, and do them in one afternoon.
  • Clear my finances. I’ll take a few minutes to review my checking and savings accounts, Paypal, investments, etc. and make sure everything is in order. If there are little things that need taking care of, I do them so that my mind is cleared.
  • Clear pantry and refrigerator of junk. Old crap that’s been lying around. Junk food if there’s any there (I don’t usually have any anymore, but I used to). Left with just good whole ingredients for healthy foods.

This might take a couple days, working off and on in little bits. For some, it might take longer. But when you’re done, it’s amazing. Your mind is clear and refreshed. You feel like you’re ready to take on anything. To be honest, I do these things regularly throughout the year, and it’s great to keep a clean slate most of the time. But the new year is always a perfect opportunity to clear everything at once.

Hear Hear Leo!

Read the original post from Zen Habits here: http://zenhabits.net/clear/

Is getting organised one of your New Year resolutions?

It’s that time of  year folks – crack open the bubbly, count down the minutes and make those New Year’s resolutions you know you won’t keep post January 31! Hey we do it every year, so why change now? Well, when it comes to decluttering and getting organised, if you can stick with it, it can really change your life for the better – 365 days of the year!

Unclutterer.com had an interesting post today about making (and more importantly keeping) your New Year’s resolutions – especially when it comes to becoming organised:

According to the National Association of Professional Organizers in theUS, the phrase “get organized” is one of the top 10 resolutions people make every year.  If you add uncluttering into the “get organized” category, it’s likely a top 5 resolution.

If you fall into the group of resolution makers who wants to be better organized in 2012, the first thing to do is specifically identify why you want to be organized. Being organized isn’t usually a goal. Being organized is merely a path to achieving another goal.

For instance, you might want to be better organized with your time after work so you finally get your business idea off the ground. You might want to be more organized with meal planning so you have less stress surrounding mealtimes with your family.

Knowing why you want to be organized will help you with the remaining steps of the resolution-making process and with ultimately achieving your goals.

After you have identified why you want to be more organized and have a rough idea of the resolutions you wish to achieve, your next step is to create a detailed plan of action.

Read the entire article here: http://unclutterer.com/2011/12/29/making-resolutions-and-creating-a-2012-resolution-action-plan/

8 tips to break down those tough tasks

Yahoo, I finally finished!

Today I have had one of those days. A “To Do” list of various marketing projects that needed to get started and no motivation to do so. Now as a professional organiser who helps others with time management you would think I would have this down pat. But no, I too am only human and sometimes I can think of a 1,000 other things I could be doing such as popping a load in the washing machine, making a cup of tea, the dog needs walking…

Then magically into my inbox pops another gem from Zen Habits. It’s like he is reading my mind. It go me up and raring to go so I thought it may also help my loyal readers – so I thought I would share:

Before you can achieve something in life, you need to decide precisely what it is you want. It could be you intend to stop smoking; improve your fitness; give up gambling; get a new job, or whatever.

Once you have a clearly defined idea of the what, why and how long of your end result, you can break down the entire process. Here are a few tips to do this:

1. Pinpoint the steps involved. Let’s say, for example, that your end result is to get a job as a teacher in 5 years time. Ask yourself what individual steps are needed to get there. Are specific qualifications and experience required? How can you gain these skills? What can you do to study or re-train? Come up with all the steps you can think of. The purpose of this exercise is to flesh out what is still a large aim into smaller, detailed steps. Each one represents a stepping stone towards achieving your end result.

2. Create a pint-sized action plan. Think of the steps as actions. Once you understand what actions are needed to achieve your end result, you can pull these together into a plan.

3. Set mini targets and daily/ weekly tasks. When you create your action plan, work out a series of targets you believe it’s possible to reach on the way to your end result. Decide what you need to have done in six, three and one months’ time to achieve your end result. Then break it down into monthly and weekly chunks, and from here you can set yourself simple daily and weekly tasks that are easily reached.

4. Keep on track. If the mini target for a given week isn’t achieved, don’t despair. The small-scale approach is so flexible that it allows you to make instant changes. On a weekly basis, ask yourself what happened and whether you could do anything differently? Carry over the shortfall to the following week and tweak your daily and weekly tasks accordingly. Keep on completing these small-scale tasks and meeting the mini targets, and the end result will be well within your grasp.

5. Forget the long-term. Get into the habit of ignoring the end date, and try to stop dwelling on what’s to come in the future. Don’t worry – you already considered the overall task and how long it would take when you set the mini targets and the daily/ weekly tasks. Now you can put the long-term view to one side, and really pay attention to achieving these smaller, shorter-term targets and tasks.

6. Adjust your steps. Along the way, you might find that what you’re trying isn’t as effective as you hoped. Or, other factors – such as job and family commitments – could affect your focus. Be ready to tweak your targets and tasks, when necessary. It’s perfectly ok to revisit and revise them to ease the load. Better to pace yourself than be stressed out.

7. Celebrate the little wins. One success leads to another, so use all your wins to spur you on. As each milestone is passed triumphantly, it’ll boost your motivation and you’ll gain a renewed confidence in your abilities. Reward yourself with something which makes you feel amazing – a new pair of jeans, a trip to the park with your kids, a relaxing homemade spa day. Treat yourself to anything which reinforces your resolve to reach the end. It needn’t cost a penny.

8. Resist the urge to supersize. It’s human nature to want results fast. At times, you might be tempted to rush at things and bite off more than you can chew, ending up back at square one. If you’re tempted to give up, refer to your ‘motivation bank’ of reasons why you want the end result. Be determined and concentrate on only the current stage of your journey, and not on what’s next. Reflect on how far you’ve come and what a waste it would be to throw in the towel.

Read more of the article here: http://zenhabits.net/small-scale/