I learnt something this week. Or, to be more specific, I re-learnt it/ was reminded of it. The relearning and reminding has been very useful.

Let’s start at the beginning, if there is such a thing.

I’m training for my summer season of cross country runs and events. For the last few years I’ve focused on completing at least one Tough Mudder each season. I’ve previously blogged about the experience here. This year will see me complete my 11th, after which I’ll need to find a new challenge (I’m doing two runs back to back this season, because on their own, fun though they are, they’re not really challenging any more – They are a gloriously fun event – there’s a cracking sense of camaraderie and collaboration fostered on the course in order to overcome the obstacles, and I’ll certainly do one a year in the future as a kind of distraction, but stretching? Nope.)

The other reason for looking for new outdoor, kinda lost-in-nature-and-exercise challenges is that I’ve run out of people to persuade to run with me on the Mudders (a couple of poor unsuspecting souls are in the wings, but they’re also doing homework, which is disappointing). Whenever I now try and oh-so-subtly slant the conversation casually towards the possibility of a Mudder run, I’m met with either outright derision, a short two-word answer, or that look; that special mixture of bemusement and detached pity reserved for someone whom one pats gently on the head before sending on their way.

Anyhow, I’m well into the rhythm of training and running and I love it. Weekends and evenings are invariably spent outdoors, padding along alone, or with Willowpants for company. Just this morning I did a beautiful run In the Goyt valley – starting at the sailing club, round Fernilee reservoir, then heading back to Buxton via the East side of Errwood reservoir, over Axe Edge and back through Burbage – so great to run in the early morning before everyone else has worked out that they should be up… After leaving my wife and the doggie at around 5k, I didn’t see another soul – just the birdsong for company, along with, at one point a young bambi deer and a startled and swiftly vanishing hare.

What I’m trying to point out is that, in preparation for said summer season of madness I have adopted a certain rhythm – a sense of being in the groove with my running – steadily increasing distance until, at my own pottering speed, 10-12 miles/ 18K or so is not really much of an issue.

But therein lies the actual issue, do you see? No? Stay with me…

The point of (re)learning was the VC’s fun run 2017, Friday 28th April. Its an annual event and brings out colleagues from across campus to participate in 2 laps of our Peel Park fronted estate – its all for Charity – Kidscan this year – 5K, or thereabouts in service of a great cause and a lot of fun. And its a little bit quietly competitive. Just on the Down Low, y’know. I mean, race times are posted and are guarded ferociously until official release – I tried to find out my time just after the race and was told by a clip board that Things Would Be Posted Online. I backed away….

Last year, given that I was in a Tough Mudder race the next morning,  I ambled round and held conversation throughout with our DVC and a sporty member of the USSU (it was rather one sided- our DVC spoke in monosyllabic responses that sounded suspiciously like wheezes…) However, this year, with the first Mudders of the 2017 season still being a week away at the time of writing, I had no such excuse for an amicable meander round the course. (That and a colleague from my office had said casually she intended to beat me and then point and laugh – red rag to a bull folks).

So I decided to step away from the normal pottering pace I do on my longer runs – the pace that makes it seem like I’m a tourist taking in all the sights – and just see what I could do. I’ll admit now, hopes were not high; for those of you acquainted with me, you’ll know from a sidewards glance at me from a moving train, I’m not one built for speed. However, just to see what might happen, I broke pattern.

First impressions – the run was over quickly and I took longer strides than usual. Based on my longer runs, I was hoping for a time around 25-27 minutes. Although, at the time of writing, times haven’t been posted yet, I think I came in around 20-21 minutes. Not super fast by any means, but pleasing for me. And surprising, and uncomfortable and it felt out of the ordinary rhythm and slightly jarring and a little strange. But good, and quietly satisfying, as though I’ve just discovered something that was there, but just needed to the right nudge and circumstance to come to the fore.

And there’s the lesson I took from the VC’s fun run; Disrupt the normal patterns, shake things up, do/see/experience difference/ play different rhythms and above all, don’t get comfortable – it’s the death of the touching the next horizon.

At the start of the run, if you’d asked me, I would have told you my normal pace – my confines, my little habitual box. Now I know I can go faster (over short distances, let’s not get carried away).

So now I’m going to do some shorter faster runs, as well as increase speed on the longer runs, because all of a sudden, I Can. I might just catch up with the front pack next year.

See you next week.


Author: samgrogan

I am many sided; Pro Vice-Chancellor Student Experience at Salford University, Principal Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, driven Tough Mudder runner, and a lover of the outdoors. I live in the heart of the beautiful Peak District with my wife and our pets. On weekends, you'll find me out in the countryside with the dog, running or walking up a hill, or typically cooking for friends (I'm getting better, so they say) My role at Salford is one I cherish. I'm one of the fortunate few who wake up excited about the day ahead. It's really not work when it's this much fun. As part of the Vice-Chancellor's Executive Team I work alongside a gifted and dedicated team of creative educationalists passionate about being better tomorrow than we are today. As PVC SE at Salford I hold executive responsibility for both the assurance of quality and standards of our institutional academic portfolio, and its strategic direction and character. Intertwined with this facet of my role, I am responsible for strategic leadership and enhancement of the wider student experience and the development of a distinctive Salford learning environment. My overall purpose, driven by these two key parts of my role, is to develop a bold, playful learning landscape at Salford which delivers holistic sustainable success, preparing our students for life. I'm fascinated by how people learn, and how we might collectively make that experience result in a profound expansion of personal and professional horizons and an extension of possibilities for all parties involved. My greatest reward comes from seeing thresholds crossed, barriers broken, new habits formed and changes made. To this end, I'm also endlessly absorbed in considering how we might develop better, more useful ways of integrating the digital landscape and other technologies, emerging and present, into the act of learning. I think we're just beginning - a brave new world awaits... My background is in performance - Before undertaking my PhD and before spending the first half of my university career as a lecturer, programme leader and head of department, in my early career I acted, danced and made theatre across the world. This ten year experience continues to be fundamental in shaping the way I think about teaching and learning. At its best I see it as a facilitated journey of discovery, play, risk and adventure anchored in 'reflective doing'. Not 'knowing' in this context is often a signal that a useful path is being trodden - Thinking on its own is just rehearsal...

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