Unconventional Wisdoms 2/4: Nathan Farrugia (Part 1)

Nathan training in Gozo. Credit: Kurt Arrigo
Nathan Farrugia training in Gozo. Credit: Kurt Arrigo

I met Nathan for a cup of tea, a week ahead of his Spartathlon attempt.  I wanted to know more about this family man, business man, and arguably Malta’s best ultra-athlete.

Spartathlon is one of the most difficult ultras in the world (the only challenges that Nathan really takes part in nowadays, alongside his own record-breaking creations).  

Spartathlon is a 246km (153 mile) road race from Athens to Sparta.  It started in 1983 and takes place 25-26 Sept 15.  The goal of all participants is to finish under the cut-off time of 36 hours.  Battling extreme weather conditions and strict cut-offs for the first 100km, it’s not only the distance that will be challenging. It is a stripped back race, no MP3 players allowed.  Little support and only basic food is given.

Up until last year, Nathan was the CEO of Malta’s largest non-profit organisation that helps people with disabilities.  He stopped to maintain his role as president of the foundation. He set up his own business which helps people/ companies with executive coaching and business development.  He is also heavily involved in foundations and charities for young people with disabilities and health problems.

Nathan has been working and volunteering in the charity sector since 2000 and has raised hundreds of thousands of euros for good causes. His latest endeavours are as director of the Lino Spiteri Foundation, working to create jobs for persons with a disability on a national level.

Me (M): Many athletes with families describe their lives as a daily ‘balancing act’, would you agree that finding a sport/life balance is trickier after kids? (more…)

Read More

Unconventional Wisdoms: Interview 1/4: Maria Walton

Maria Walton
Maria Walton

In 2009 Maria Walton, a marathon coach from Arizona, was gifted with a copy of “Born to Run” by a friend. Shortly after reading it, Maria sent Micah True (the elusive and reluctant hero of the book) a Facebook message for some advice on ultra-marathons.

He responded almost immediately,

“It’s not my book. If it’s an autograph you are after, you’re asking the wrong guy.”

Maria replied: “No, no, I’m not a fan. I just want some advice on how to run an ultra.”

“Oh,” he wrote back. “You are going to run a little slower, run a bit longer.  And that’s it really. I don’t train, I eat some oatmeal, grab a coffee, get out the door and run.”

Micah, an American ex-boxer who gave away everything he owned, moved to the mysterious Barrancas del Cobre of Mexico to emulate the methods of the Raramuri, and ran ultra distances there carrying no gear, just a plastic water bottle and a $8 timex watch. (more…)

Read More

Interview series: Unconventional Wisdoms

 Alternative lifestyle inspiration

27 marathonsDini 2luis escobar maria

“Click this” Read an email I sent to my other-half.

“Stop sending me click-bait” was his curt reply.

“:-( But I wrote it?” Was my reply.

Adam: “Oh, ok I clicked it”.

It got me thinking, I don’t want to write click-bait.  I want to write informative, life-affirming pieces, like the kind I love to read.  If I am interested in a subject, my patience lasts longer than 800 words.

So, the idea to put together a series of four interviews came to mind.

Two live in Malta, two are Americans, two are men, two are women.  There’s one grandmother, one father, one working/ sailing mother and the other one, well he defies categorisation.

They are four humans who appear to get more out of their days than the average Joe.

I’ve been working long and hard on this series to try and showcase ordinary people who do extra-ordinary things.

They appear to ask more of life than seems normal.  Are they rewarded, or are they simply nuts?  Let’s see. (more…)

Read More

Homesickness after a decade abroad?

This time when I got back home to Malta after a summer in UK and France, I found it tricky to settle.  More than at any other time before.  The feeling of being happy to be coming back to home abroad, had been lasting for shorter periods each time I returned to my life here.

The taxi driver was 1 hour late leaving with us from the airport, so we left at 1am instead of midnight and I was just immediately tired of Malta.  I’m not going to Malta bash, why would I?  There’s so many awesome things about this country.  The other day I got back from the beach with friends and kids (awesome in itself) and hungry and tired grabbed the kids and bags, ate dinner and about 2 hours later was looking for their water bottles.  I realised I was missing my handbag with the bottles in, and my purse, money, all the important stuff.

I knew instantly I had left it somewhere ‘bad’.  I went down to the car and the passenger side door was wide open, my bag on the passenger seat! It had been that way for some hours.  Quite a lot of people pass there on Saturday night, and I thought of all the times we had been lucky in similar situations here.

I also love running here. The weather is almost always perfect. The smells and feel of the countryside at night is something I’ve never experienced in the UK. (more…)

Read More

Training and motherhood: pregnancy, breastfeeding and beyond.

IMG_0897
Pic taken by ‘Her Majesty’

A pregnant friend recently sent me a message:

Hi Hannah, I have a question for you. How do you manage to train & run, when you are sleep-deprived from looking after your twins? I am just wondering cos I always feel so lousy from lack of sleep and I imagine it’s only going to get worse once the baby arrives! xx

My answer I told her, was extensive, so I thought I would post it here, to maybe help any other preggos or new mums thinking the same things.

My answer is primarily based on my experience of being pregnant with and breastfeeding twins.  I’ve gleaned some other information from here and there.

I’ve heard of mother’s running marathons and ultra marathons, stopping to breastfeed their babies along the way.  I’m pretty sure these mothers didn’t jump into that idea after giving birth.  They must have been in a pretty good physical state before hand.  The first mother I heard about doing this, stepped into a 24-hour timed race (you run as many time round a track loop as you can in 24 hours) after her husband couldn’t take part.  She ran more than an ultra, without planning to. An ultra is anything over a marathon distance.  The second was a professional runner who was back training 6 weeks post-birth and back competing in the first year.

I was not an athlete before I gave birth.  I was training for Malta marathon when I found I was pregnant, before that I was an on-off runner, much like now ;)  I did a 19km run in September 2009 and felt a bit weird.  I discovered I was 6 weeks pregnant and on the next run I tried to do, I felt all kinds of cramping and pulling in my abdomen.  I was not comfortable.  (more…)

Read More

On taking ‘me’ time and not feeling guilty about it…

Between the time they were born and time they were 5, I took one night away from my twins.  This was a night in hospital when they were 2, to recover from a c-section repair operation.  I found the experience really difficult, and missed them so much that I had no desire for time off from them again.

Their father, Adam had had a total of 6 months away from them in their first 3 years, as I took the twins to stay with my mother in the UK for long periods of time.  On top of this, he had had work weekends away.  I had no jealousy or desire to do the same.  I loved being with my kids, and missed them after just a few hours apart, however, from about 4.5 years I had started to feel a bit energetically ‘ground down’ and ‘running on empty’, in terms of what I had to offer them.  Having two first babies at 27 was a full on life-changer, I wasn’t the same Hannah as before they were around.

I booked 16 days away in France for in 6 months time. I started to feel panicky.  I hadn’t planned it to be so long, but a combination of factors meant it ended up being 21 days. I envisioned missing them like I did after a few hours for the entire duration, but on the other hand, the idea of getting up whenever I felt like it, making a cup of tea and seeing to myself first for the first time in 5 years, felt exciting and attractive.  I planned to take long baths, long runs and go out for dinner without worrying what time I would be home.

The fact that every day (except the time of that operation) they had been the first thought on my mind in the morning.  What were they going to eat that day, do, what other things did I need to do for them, etc.  I felt bound-down structuring my day around their routine, everyday.  Oh course this probably sounds selfish, I felt selfish to the point I wouldn’t admit these feelings to myself.  There was slight resentment when Adam went on his latest work trip to Sicily.  Although I didn’t admit it, it was time for me to take a break.  Of course, many mothers with many more children than me don’t have the opportunity for such a break (I was lucky that this chance came about through a combination of factors) but many parents don’t have access to many things, such as nutritious food, it doesn’t mean it is not desirable for the welfare of everyone involved.  Many people have to be involuntarily apart from their children, like I was for the operation, and that’s a different matter and feeling altogether, but ‘mummy burnout’ is now something I recognise, which I didn’t before this break. (more…)

Read More

Malta’s toughest race: Gozo Hellfire 55k.

Creaming up, for the third time
Pre-race. Creaming up, for the third time

“I don’t know if I can finish. But that’s the point. I don’t want to enter a race I know I can finish. I want a challenge and to see how I measure up. To try something I don’t know I can finish: that excites me.”

me race start carmel
Probo one of only times you’ll see me next to Carlos (white t-shirt) in a race scenario ;) He won, I did not

me finish
Happiest I’ve ever been (when not on morphine)

 

I wrote this the a few days after: “I have a feeling now like being in love, or having had a baby, without that anxiety and trepidation that I’m somehow going to mess it all up. No matter what happens now, I’ve completed an ultra and nothing can take that away.”

 

(more…)

Read More

The course of true love never did run smooth: Minimalism to Maximalism: pt1

Sorry guys, a new post has been long overdue! I have had a wicked summer so far! Mainly packed with entertaining the little ones.  However, now I sit in France alone in a beautiful huge Chalet, I have three days to catch up on some writing before I head to Chamonix for the UTMB festivities, so here goes.

On to the title of this post; I love running.  I know many don’t, and I felt that way for 19 years.  I would miss a bus rather than run for one, honestly.  Then something clicked after that first half-marathon I hadn’t trained for.  Ali and Hannah, the unlikely athletesI knew I could push beyond discomfort, and actually find pleasure in doing so, and this forever changed me.  The comfort zone is a trap, and true happiness lies beyond this.  This is a valuable lesson which changes the way one lives, a lesson I hope my kids will grow to understand.

 

I never intended to be a minimalist purist in terms of running shoe.  I hadn’t read Born to Run (the book that started the minimalist trend) when I started running in sandals.  

 This is a story about how I ran in sandals for 3 and a bit years, how I found it and where my thoughts lie now.  (I hope this story is useful).

PS- those nike cortez ‘fashion’ trainers stood me well for running for years until someone told me I needed a ‘proper’ running shoe ->

(more…)

Read More

The course of love never did run smooth: Minimalism to Maximalism: pt2.

I waited patiently in Sportlink in Norwich, whilst a slurry of beat-up bodies sought out new shoes to fix their running woes.  Is running this bad? This addictive? I thought, as a man spoke of his recent back operation, a woman of her chronic knee pain, and veteran athlete Neil Featherby said if he had stopped running when a doctor had told him to… Well, Neil just laughed. Are we really that worse off than the general population, I wondered?  I see many broken down, beaten-up bodies in my Yoga classes, and rarely are these due to sporting injuries. Most often the body is rebelling in later life against a sedentary/ indoor lifestyle.

I don’t run to look better, I don’t run to make my body feel better.  I run, like with Yoga, primarily for my mind.  However, my body needs to be kept in tune to allow me to continue experiencing the benefits. There is no benefit in ignoring niggles that persist beyond a few months.  This is why I was here, hoping a change in footwear may help my back and prevent me further damaging my knee.  Maybe my back problems were exacerbated by running, maybe barefoot running caused my knee injury, maybe it was under-training, maybe barefoot running affected these injuries for the better, or for the worse.  Maybe it was pregnancy that damaged my back and the problem would have arisen anyway (as the back specialists said), maybe running presented the problem earlier than I would have otherwise become aware.  Maybe the accident was a coincidence and the problem was underlying.  This is all speculation, but I knew I needed some changes, regardless of the cause.

(more…)

Read More

A sad weekend to be a human

Spring hunting for Easter eggsAs I sit here drinking some tea, I hear a bird singing.  And I feel sad.

Tomorrow that little guy can (and probably will) be shot at mercilessly, then if he’s not that special, just left by the roadside to die, rather than to be stuffed for about E50 and stuck in a showcase alongside many others like him.

Another historic referendum for the Maltese has sealed the thinnest of majorities of just 2,220 votes to retain a spring hunting season despite an EU ban.

The Times of Malta said that the “Yes” campaign successfully argued that a “No” victory could result in other pastimes, such as fireworks and motorsports, also being banned in referendums.

The paper says that hunting enthusiasts also succeeded in using the “pulling power” of Prime Minister Mr Muscat while simultaneously ensuring that their campaign was “characterised by an absence of images of shotguns and dead birds”.

A second hunting season in autumn was not included in the referendum.

Malta is the only EU country that allows recreational spring hunting. (more…)

Read More